AI helps track down mysterious cosmic radio bursts

Fast radio bursts are powerful blasts of energy from across the cosmos caused by unknown events, perhaps emissions from a collapsed and highly magnetized neutron star. Researchers have now used machine learning to discover 72 new fast radio bursts from a mysterious source some 3 billion light years from Earth.

Researchers at Breakthrough Listen, a SETI project led by the University of California, Berkeley are studying FRB 121102 as it repeats. Fast radio bursts are bright pulses of radio emission mere milliseconds in duration, thought to originate from distant galaxies. The source of these emissions is still unclear, however.

Theories range from highly magnetized neutron stars blasted by gas streams from a nearby supermassive black hole, to suggestions that the burst properties are consistent with signatures of technology developed by an advanced civilization. Breakthrough Listen is also applying the successful machine-learning algorithm to find new kinds of signals that could be coming from extraterrestrial civilizations.

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