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Distant radio-wave pulses spotted

Signals could help astronomers understand universe's mass

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4:35pm, July 4, 2013

It may have taken billions of years for them to get here from deep space, but four recently detected radio signals disappeared only milliseconds after arriving at Earth. The fleeting signals, only the second detection ever of radio bursts emanating from beyond the Milky Way, could help scientists understand the vast unexplored areas that separate galaxies.

Picked up by an international team of astronomers at the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, the powerful radio pulses emanate from sources 5 billion to nearly 11 billion light years away, the researchers report in the July 5 Science. The nature of these sources remains a mystery, says Benjamin Stappers of the University of Manchester in England, but “clearly they’re very energetic events, probably cataclysmic.”

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