Fast Repetitive Radio Bursts from Space Captured for the First Time

Patti MayonnaiseMarch 3, 20161,601 Views
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Until now, abrupt and fast radio bursts resounding from deep space have never been known to repeat themselves. Last May, ten blasts of these radio waves were recorded through to June all coming from the same direction. Researchers reported the findings online with Nature on March 2nd, just yesterday. In fact, a similar signal had been detected back in 2012 by an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany with his colleagues.

Oddly enough, all of the eleven signals detected came from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Fast radio bursts or FRBs last merely milliseconds, aside from one which appeared to originate in another galaxy. When repeated, each of these signals encountered the same quantity of intergalactic plasma. Essentially, this means they traveled the exact same distance.


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Given this shared feature, it has made for an ironclad case for a common source according to Duncan Lorimer of West Virginia University in Morgantown (co-discoverer of the very first FRB in 2007). The astrophysicist now poses the question: What fractions of sources repeat?

It is important to note that there is a wide ranging assortment of FRB classifications as some recur and some do not. Each are triggered by different variables. The vast array of explanations for FRB causes range from colliding stellar cores to overzealous pulsars and even the collapse of an obese neutron star. Since repeating signals rule out certain scenarios like collisions, it is more than likely that the sources consist of radio eruptions via various neutron stars like pulsars and magnetars.


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Though pulsars emit steady beats of radio waves, there are occasional blasts of vigorous pulses. It’s widely believed within the astrophysicist science community that radio telescopes could potentially detect large blasts from faraway galaxies.

Experts confirm that when it comes to a renowned repeater, the ideal facility capable of staring down the same patch of sky is the Very Large Array located near Socorro, New Mexico. The facilities there are capable of waiting out the next eruption and identifying the host galaxy.

Astrophysicist Duncan Lorimer says, “It’s a wake-up call that there’s a lot we can do with existing FRBs.”

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