Astrophysicists first discovered an outbreak of cosmic radio waves in our solar system and identified its source. This emerges from a study published on Wednesday that sheds new light on one of the secrets of the universe.
The origin of powerful high-speed radio bursts (FRBs) – intense flashes of radio emission that last only a few milliseconds – has puzzled scientists since they were first discovered a little over a decade ago.
They are usually extragalactic, which means that they originate outside of our galaxy. On April 28th of this year, several telescopes discovered a bright FRB from the same area in our Milky Way Galaxy.
It was also important that they could determine the source: Galactic Magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154.
Magnetar young neutron stars, which are the most magnetic objects in the universe, have long been the prime suspects in the search for the source of these radio waves.
However, this discovery marks the first time astronomers have traced the signal directly back to a magnetar.
Christopher Bochenek, whose US transient astronomical radio emission 2 (STARE2) survey was one of the teams that discovered the outbreak, said the magnetar emitted as much energy in about a millisecond as the sun’s radio waves in 30 seconds.
He said the burst was “so bright” that in theory, if you had a record of the raw data from your cellphone’s 4G LTE receiver and knew what to look for, “you might have found this signal about halfway through the galaxy came “the phone data.
That energy is comparable to FRBs from outside the galaxy, he said, reinforcing the case that magnetars are the source of most of the extragalactic bursts.
Up to 10,000 FRBs can occur daily, but these high-energy surges weren’t discovered until 2007.
They have been the subject of heated debate ever since, and even small steps to identify their origins are causing great excitement among astronomers.
One problem is that the current lightning strikes are difficult to locate without knowing where to look.
The theories of their origins ranged from catastrophic events like supernovae to neutron stars, which are super-dense star fragments formed after a star’s gravitational collapse.
There are even more exotic explanations – excluded by astronomers – for extraterrestrial signals.
Also read: A scan of 10.3 million stars shows no signs of aliens yet
The latest discovery published in three articles in the journal naturewas made by piecing together observations from space and ground telescopes.
Both STARE2 and the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) discovered the torch and traced it back to the magnetar.
Later that day, this region of the sky came within sight of the extremely sensitive five hundred aperture spherical telescope (FAST) in China.
Astronomers there were already observing the magnetar, which had entered an “active phase” and fired bursts of x-rays and gamma rays, according to Bing Zhang, a researcher at the University of Nevada and part of the team who reported the discovery.
FAST did not detect the FRB itself, but multiple x-rays were detected by the magnetar, he said at a news conference, raising new questions about why only one of the bursts was associated with an FRB.
In one nature Comment Amanda Weltman and Anthony Walters of the High Energy Physics, Cosmology and Astrophysics Group at the University of Cape Town said the FRB’s connection to a magnetar “may solve a key puzzle”.
However, they said the results also raise a number of new questions, including what mechanism would “produce such bright but infrequent radio bursts with X-ray counterparts”.
“One promising possibility is for a flare of a magnetar to collide with the surrounding medium, creating a shock wave,” they wrote, adding that the results underscore the need for international collaboration in astronomy and the monitoring of various types of signals.
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