Scientists working to unravel the mystery of unusual radio bursts have made a breakthrough in the case.
The “fast radio bursts” had been detected by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, but because the bursts couldn’t be found by others there was speculation they were coming from on Earth, or at least near it.
Recently, however, the bursts were found by scientists using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, according to study published in The Astrophysical Journal.
“Our result is important because it eliminates any doubt that these radio bursts are truly of cosmic origin,” said Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysics professor at McGill University in Montreal and Principal Investigator for the pulsar-survey project that detected this fast radio burst. “The radio waves show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy – a really exciting prospect.”
So we know its not from earth, but what is it?
That’s the deeper mystery. The burst could be coming from “evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars — a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields.”
“Another possibility is that they are bursts much brighter than the giant pulses seen from some pulsars,” said James Cordes, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University and co-author of the new study.
Whatever they are, the bursts last for just a few thousandths of a second, and happen 10,000 times a day across the whole sky. They’re probably coming from beyond our Milky Way Galaxy.
Scientists hope that new radio telescopes under construction will help unravel the enigma, but for now an enigma it remains.
[Source: McGill University]
Image from the NAIC – Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF