In a world’s first, a ground telescope was able to capture a string of fast radio bursts (FRB) coming from a mysterious source located outside our galaxy. Radio astronomers worldwide are puzzled because it is the first time they get such cosmic signals more than once from the same emitter.
Scientists are now trying to figure out what may be triggering the signals.
Researchers explained that FRBs are extremely powerful radio waves traveling at mind-numbing speeds through space, but with an ephemeral existence – they don’t last more than a few milliseconds.
According to scientists, a single radio burst can release as much energy in a millisecond as the sun can emit in 10,000 years. Nevertheless, their exact origin is yet unknown. So far, radio telescopes have captured only 17 fast radio bursts, and not a single one was emitted more than once by the same source.
The latest FRBs were detected last year by a team working with the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Most theories claim that a fast radio burst is a non-repetitive event triggered during a catastrophic cosmic event when its initial source gets destroyed. The most commonly cited events that may be linked to FRB emission are stellar explosions, also known as supernovae, colliding stars, and extremely dense neutron stars sinking into supermassive black holes.
But the latest finding suggests that fast radio bursts may have other sources.
Paul Scholz, one of the senior astronomers involved in the discovery and researcher at the McGill University, noted that the FRBs detected in 2015 were very similar to a radio burst reported in 2012.
“The repeat signals were surprising and very exciting,”
said Scholz, who also co-authored a research paper on the recent bursts in the journal Nature.
He underscored the importance of the new discovery for the study of FRBs. The research team said that an “exotic object” fired 10 consecutive radio bursts before going silent. They believe that the source may be a rotating neutron star, which is one of the few sources capable of emitting such tremendously bright pulses.
Dr. Laura Spitler, a Max Planck Institute researcher who has reviewed the findings, noted that the 2015 bursts are not only different because of their repetitive nature, but they are also brighter and belong to different spectra than any other bursts recorded by Earth’s instruments.
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