Astronomers discover source of fast radio burst

Astronomers discover source of fast radio burst
Astronomers discover source of fast radio burst
A little luck helped astronomers solve a mystery in space: what causes strong but super-fast energy signals moving through the universe?

Scientists have known these signals, known as rapid radio bursts, for about 13 years. And they saw them coming from outside ours Galaxy. This makes it harder to know what is causing it. What makes it even more difficult is that they happen so quickly – in a few thousandths of a second.

Then, in April, two different telescopes found a rare but much weaker eruption from our own galaxy. One of the telescopes was handcrafted equipment from a California graduate student, which included metal cookware. The other was at a Canadian space observation center valued at $ 20 million.

This undated photo from Caltech shows radio astronomer Christopher Bochenek with a STARE2 station he developed near the city of Delta, Utah. (Caltech via AP)

They connected the fast radio burst to a strange type of star, a magnetar, 32,000 light years from Earth. This information comes from four studies on Wednesday diary publication nature.

It wasn’t just the first fast radio burst associated with you Those;; It was also the first to come out of our galaxy. Astronomers say there could be other sources for these outbursts. But now you are certain of one of the sources: magnetars.

Magnetars have 1.5 times the mass of our sun and are crowded into a room the size of Manhattan in New York. They have huge magnetic fields that are full of energy and sometimes burst X-rays and radio waves suddenly come from them. This information comes from Ziggy Pelpis. He is an astrophysicist at McGill University and a co-author of the Canadian study.

The magnetic field around these magnetars “is so strong that any nearby atoms are torn apart,” said astronomer Casey Law. He is at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and was not involved in any research.

This November 2016 photo, courtesy of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment collaboration, shows the CHIME radio telescope at Dominion Radio’s Astion Radio Observatory in Kaleden, British Columbia, Canada. (Andre Renard / University of Toront

There are maybe 12 of these magnetars in our galaxy. You are very young and part of the star birth process. And our Milky Way is not as full of star births as other galaxies, said Shami Chatterjee of Cornell University. He wasn’t part of any of the discovery teams.

This eruption in less than a second had roughly the same amount of energy that our sun produced in a month. And that’s still much weaker than radio bursts from outside our galaxy, said Christopher Bochenek. The Caltech radio astronomer used his handcrafted equipment to help spot the outbreak.

The radio bursts are not dangerous for us, not even the stronger ones from outside our galaxy, say astronomers.

Those who come from outside our galaxy and travel millions or billions of light years are very powerful. They are tens of thousands to millions of times more powerful than anything we’ve found in our galaxy, explains Daniele Michilli, an astrophysicist at McGill University. He is co-author of the study and part of the Canadian team.

Scientists believe the outbreaks can occur outside of our galaxy more than 1,000 times a day. But finding them is not easy.

“You had to find the right place in the right millisecond,” said Cornells Chatterjee. “If you’re not very, very lucky, you won’t see any of them.”

Astronomers have no idea how often the eruptions occur in our own Milky Way galaxy.

“We still don’t know how lucky we were,” said Bochenek. “This could be one thing that happens every five years, or there could be some events every year.”

Laib Antennas cost about $ 15,000. Each is “as big as a big one bucket“, he said. It’s a piece of 6-inch metal pipe with two round pieces of metal cookware, the graduate student explained. They are simplified instruments with which a huge piece of sky can be viewed. And let them see. ”Only the brightest radio flashes.

Bochenek imagined he might have a 1:10 chance of getting a quick radio outburst in a few years. But after only a year he made a valuable discovery.

The Canadian Observatory in British Columbia is much more sophisticated, but it targets a much smaller piece of the sky. And it could find the source of the magnetar in that constellation Vulpecula.

The bursts are affected by all of the material they pass through in space. This could help astronomers to understand and map the material that is invisible to us between galaxies and to “weigh” the universe, said Jason Hessels. He is chief astronomer at the Dutch Institute for Radio Astronomy and was not part of the research.

Astronomers had up to 50 different ideas about what caused these high-speed radio bursts, including Aliens. They say magnetars may not be the only answer.

I am Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported the story. Alice Bryant adapted it for learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in this story

Galaxy – n. One of the very large groups of stars that make up the universe

Those – n. The cause or origin of something

X-ray – n. Strong invisible rays that can pass through various objects

Antenna – n. A device (such as a wire or metal rod) used to send or receive radio or television signals

bucket – n. An open container with a handle used to carry items such as liquids

extraterrestrial – n. A creature that comes from a place other than planet earth

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