Mysterious repeating radio bursts baffle physicists

10 January, 2019, 09:56 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • A second mysterious repeating fast radio burst has been detected in space	 	 	 			Getty Images

The discovery is a sign that there could be even more repeating FRBs out there waiting to be found - and maybe even an answer to the mystery of their source.

Good and McGill University astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi discussed the CHIME/FRB Collaboration's findings during a briefing at the American Astronomical Society's winter meeting in Seattle. "We would like to know what kinds of objects these are and how they are related to other explosions and objects that we know of (gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, neutron stars etc)", Tendulkar said.

Work on the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), which Tendulkar and his colleagues used for their research, was not quite complete when this initial baker's dozen was detected last July and August.

We may soon find out thanks to some mysterious signals that were recently picked up by a telescope in British Columbia.

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. A repeating FRB, however, provides more opportunities for scientists to learn about these radio bursts and where they come from.

Another interesting twist has to do with the radio frequencies of the newly detected bursts. But for only the second time, they have now found one that repeats itself, making it more likely that we might find out where they come from.

One hypothesis is that powerful astrophysical phenomena are causing them.

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Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada said they've discovered the second so-called "repeating fast radio burst" (FRB) ever recorded, according to a news release published January 9. Seeing a signal at all indicates something big, like a black hole collision, could be the cause.

"This tells us more about the properties of repeaters as a population". Those include: a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field that is spinning very rapidly and two neutron stars merging together.

The FRBs discovered were omitting unusually low frequencies, with previously detected FRBs having frequencies around 1,400 megahertz and the new discoveries bellow 800 MHz.

Constructed in British Columbia, CHIME is composed of 4, 100-meter long half-pipe cylinders of metal mesh which reconstruct images of the sky by processing the radio signals recorded by more than a thousand antennas. FRBs are typically in the 1,400 MHz range, and the previous lowest radio frequency was at 700 MHz.

"[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. "But it has to be in some special place tog I've us all the scattering that we see".

To which he added: "CHIME is the most prolific FRB hunter in the world and we are looking forward to sharing new results in the upcoming months".

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