A mysterious source in space sends 1,652 radio signals in 47 days

A mysterious source in space sends 1,652 radio signals in 47 days

fast radio blasts
FAST radio telescope in China. picture: Xinhua News Agency/contributor

via Getty Images

Of all the mind-blowing phenomena in the universe, there are few like fast radio bursts (FRBs). Since the scientific community first identified them in 2007, these mysterious radio signals from the void of space have captured scientists searching for their source. Especially since some are repeating themselves and showing an activity that is difficult to explain.

Today, a second analysis of the first-ever FRB iteration – FRB 121102, first observed in 2012 – is revealing some interesting new information. An international scientific team recorded 1,652 radio streams from the mysterious source in just 47 days, According to the study published in temper nature advance this month. This activity is the largest ever recorded from a FRB source, with 122 bursts recorded in one hour.

The magnitude of the discovery is impressive: the total number of FRBs previously recorded from this source was only 349. “This is the largest single-source sample of FRBs ever collected.” Explained by e-mail Dr. Bing Zhang, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and co-author of the study.

The observations were made between August 29 and October 29, 2019 with the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China, allowing the science team to identify radio bursts of FRB 121102 like never before. But this discovery, while narrowing the field of possibilities, complicates the search for the true source. The large number of discoveries has allowed researchers to focus on indices of periodicity, or quasi-periodicity, that is, on the patterns of repeating signals that point to a single rotating source, such as a pulsar. They did not find one.

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“There may be more than one mechanism causing FRB, but observations must be made on other frequent sources to confirm this hypothesis,” Zhang wrote. Since FRB 121102 is an example of an active recurring FRB, these effects are still true for any recurrent FRB in general. ”

However, Zhang notes that their study dispels one of the most popular theories about the origin of FRBs.

He writes: “The main explanation model for FRBs includes magnetite stars, neutron stars with a very strong magnetic field.” There are two versions: in the first, the magnetosphere of the ferromagnetic would be responsible for the emission of FRBs; In the second, FRBs are generated by shocks coming from a point far from the magnetosphere. The new observations cascade the second model, which is very inefficient at generating bursts. Since we have a large number of bursts in a very short period of time – some of which are only a few seconds apart – it is practically impossible for the second model to work. Our results indicate that the bursts are more likely to be produced by the magnetosphere than by magnetars, assuming that magnetars are indeed the source of the frequent FRBs. “

We already know a lot about FRB 121102 because it is the first repeating FRB ever discovered. For example, we know it has an active phase followed by 67 days of inactivity. We also know that it comes from dwarf galaxy, in a star-forming region three billion light-years away. But as the new study shows, what we know about this mysterious radio source certainly isn’t enough just yet.

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“My team is using the FAST radio telescope to observe other frequent FRBs and amassing exciting and unexpected results,” Zhang concludes. Keep listening! “

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