Five hundred million years ago, a mysterious radio signal was launched from a far-away galaxy, now known by the rather dull name SDSS J015800.28 + 654253.0. When this electromagnetic wave started, the first trilobites of the Cambrian Period had just begun to swim about in the Earth’s seas, and it would be another 200 million years before the first reptiles set foot on land. Since this galaxy with the unpronounceable name is 500 million light years away from Earth, the signal has only just arrived. It was picked up by the radio telescopes of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB).
This battery of radio telescopes has a total surface area of 2000 m2 and is in the White Lake National Park in Canada. From these remote hills, sheltered from almost all manmade electromagnetic disturbance, radio telescopes scan the sky looking for signals coming from the cosmos on radio frequencies between 400 and 800 MHz. This one from the distant galaxy has been catalogued as an anomalous Fast Radio Burst (FRB). These types of powerful radio signals were discovered in 2007, but it is not yet clear what produces them. We only known that enormous energy sources are needed, the size of nuclear fusions occurring on stars much larger than our Sun.