Science

Scientists discover the source of mysterious radio burst

Scientists discover the source of mysterious radio burst

"We do have to keep in mind that this FRB is the only one known to repeat, so it may be physically different from the others", he said in a statement. The fact that they are so uncommon has led astronomers to suspect they must originate from very powerful events outside of our Milky Way galaxy.

"These radio flashes must have enormous amounts of energy to be visible from that distance", Dr. Shami Chatterjee, an astronomer at Cornell University who was involved in the research, told Universe Today. And now we've managed to pinpoint where a repeating signal - FRB 121102 - is coming from.

The recent appearance of FRB 121102 could also offer its origin. Because the galaxy doesn't contain a high number of stars and because most of those stars seem relatively young, it likely doesn't contain a high number of neutron stars, making this scenario less likely. "Lots of stars, lots of galaxies, lots of stuff", he said, which made the search hard.

Follow-up observations with the Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, revealed that the smudge was actually a dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light-years away.

There have been 18 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) detected since 2007, and their original has until now puzzled scientists.

While a cosmic event, such as a stellar collision, could be responsible for a single FRB, multiple bursts in short succession imply that the FRBs are a repeating phenomenon, not unlike a signal. Most were discovered in wide-field searches that can not pinpoint exactly where they come from - which makes it harder for astronomers to winnow down possible explanations for what causes them.

Scientists with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have detected a series of six FRBs, all in approximately the same location: the Auriga constellation, some three billion light-years from Earth. "It had to be something where the engine that produced this survived for the next flash", Chatterjee said.

The source of signals first detected in 2007 have been pinpointed to a galaxy far, far, away.

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Recently, researchers published a report in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters claiming to have finally pinpointed the galaxy where these freaky radio pulses have been coming.

Even when the FRB 121102 didn't present a particular pattern, the investigation team knew that the burst had great possibilities of reappearing at the same region. Astronomers used the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the European Very Large Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) network, to help narrow the origin.

Arecibo data from August and September 2016 showed several bursts of radio energy.

Scientists expect finding most FRBs in large galaxies because they have the largest number of stars and neutron stars.

"This discovery may hint at links between FRBs and those two kinds of events", Tendulkar said.

The hypothesis most favored by the researchers involves an exotic type of neutron star with a massive magnetic field, called magnetar - although this raises at least as many questions as it answers, particularly because FRB 121102 is the only recurring one ever observed. The VLA later discovered that the galaxy continuously emits low-level radio waves as well, suggesting it orbits around a central supermassive black hole.

"Which are somehow being lensed by globs of plasma so that they are coming into focus just at the Earth, and every once in a while when they come into focus we can catch a pulse", he said.


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