A bizarre new radio burst coming to Earth from a strange and unexpected location in space has scientists scratching their heads to understand it.
The fast radio burst, or FRB, is sending out frequent, repeated blasts of energy and has led to questions about what exactly they are and how they can be used to understand the universe..
First detected in 2007, fast radio bursts are very intense, very brief blasts of energy that come to us from deep in space.
Having many examples to draw from has brought researchers closer to understanding where they are coming from, despite their origin remaining a mystery.
Explanations have varied from black holes to alien technology but it is a magnetar, a type of neutron star, that has emerged as the most likely candidate.
Recent research has also suggested that there are different kinds of FRBs, and the newly discovered object further strengthens that argument.
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Researchers have questioned whether those that repeat their signals in this way could be fundamentally different from others.
After 15 years, and numerous examples, the mystery of the blasts remain fascinating and unknown to astronomers, but more research into FRBs, including the newly discovered one, could unlock that mystery.
Scientists hope to better understand how repeating and non-repeating FRBs are different, for instance, and whether they might be coming from sources that are different ages or entirely distinct things.
The findings are reported in paper ‘A repeating fast radio burst associated with a persistent radio source’, which was published in Nature.
The new FRB has been given the number 20190520B, and its host galaxy is the equally catchy sounding J160204.31−111718.5.
It was found using China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or FAST, in 2019, and further work has been done to examine it since, using a range of different equipment.
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