Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Repeating, mysterious fast radio burst in deep space is truly unusual

Scientists Find 13 Mysterious Deep Space Flashes Including 2nd Known'Repeater Radio Signals From A Galaxy Light Years Away Have Been Reported
Sandy Nunez | 11 January, 2019, 19:28

A radio telescope in the Okanagan has picked up a repeating fast radio burst from space - only the second to ever be recorded. "When the first repeater was found, we didn't know if that was a unique object in the universe or if there was a class of these things, or if maybe all of the fast radio bursts actually were repeated, but numerous bursts were too faint for our telescopes to pick up".

Popular explanations for FRBs include rapidly spinning neutron stars with strong magnetic fields (known as magnetars), mergers of highly dense objects, collapsed stars, supermassive black holes, and - much more speculatively-extraterrestrial civilizations.

The only other detected repeating FRB signal was picked up in November 2012.

"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member from the National Research Council of Canada, said in a statement.

Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics Professor Avid Loeb said the bursts could be evidence of alien technology.

The first one, deemed FRB 121102, was discovered in 2015 by the Arecibo radio telescope, and it was revealed in 2018 that the bursts release an enormous amount of energy.

FRBs are not rare, as about 60 have been catalogued since 2007, but only one has been a repeating FRB so far, opening up debate as to what causes them. Now, however, the CHIME radio telescope has helped the scientists record 13 more bursts, busting the myth that the first catch was a technical fault. "It could be colliding black holes but you don't expect black holes to collide and then an hour later collide again, and then after that to collide again, right?"

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He said: "Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB".

Stairs said that with CHIME, "mapping the entire northern hemisphere every day, we're bound to find more repeaters over time".

"These things are coming to us from halfway across the universe and we don't really know anything about them", said McGill University's Shriharsh Tendulkar, a lead author of one of two papers in the journal Nature about the new findings. Astronomers have grappled with this mystery for years because, while they continue to observe bursts, they are still unsure of what causes them.

IANS reported that the detection by Chime of FRBs at lower frequencies means some of these theories will need to be reconsidered.

"This is good news for radio telescopes that are sensitive at lower radio frequencies", she said. It was reportedly a very unusual repeating signal, coming from the same source, approximately 1.5 billion light years away.

"We were relieved and very happy", said the UBC astrophysicist. That tells us something about the environments and the sources. "We would also like to study the properties of whole populations of FRBs and try to see if there are different sources that give rise to repeaters and non-repeaters".

Since FRBs occur so quickly, studying them and identifying the source is hard.