Using the Chinese Five Hundred Meter Spherical Aperture Radio Telescope, or FAST, researchers detected 1,652 bursts in 47 days, between August 29 and October 29, 2019. This is the largest set of events rapid radio bursts to date.
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are millisecond radio wave emissions into space, and astronomers have been able to trace some radio bursts back to their galaxies of origin. Scientists have yet to determine the real cause of the flashes. But the short bursts can produce the equivalent of a year of our sun’s total energy output.
Individual radio bursts emit once and do not repeat. But the repeating rapid radio bursts are known to send out short, forceful radio waves several times. FRB 121102 has been known as a repetitive rapid radio burst since 2016.
When testing the FAST telescope when it was put into service, researchers noticed that the FRB 121102 frequently burns and sends out radio signals, with varying rates. A total of 122 bursts were recorded during the rush hour, making it the highest rate ever recorded for a rapid radio burst. The 1,652 individual bursts occurred over a total of 59.5 hours over 47 days.
“This was the first time that an FRB source has been studied in such detail,” said study co-author Bing Zhang, astrophysicist and distinguished professor. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in a statement. “The large set of gusts has helped our team to refine the characteristic energy and energy distribution of FRBs like never before, shedding new light on the engine that powers these mysterious phenomena.”
The energy of the signals “severely limits the possibility of FRB 121102 coming from a single compact object,” study co-author Wang Pei, assistant professor at National Astronomical Observatories at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a report. communicated.
While some people favor the idea that aliens could be at the origin of these bursts, scientists are leaning towards black holes or hyper-magnetized neutron stars called magnetars.
Magnetars are dense stars, the size of a city like Chicago or Atlanta, with the strongest magnetic fields in the universe. Scientists believe that the bursts could come from the magnetic field of the magnetars.
Previous observations have shown that generally, when repeated, it is sporadic or in clusters.
With this impressive new set of activities from FRB 121102, researchers can better understand the energy associated with these flashes. This could help scientists learn more about the potential source of the rapid radio bursts.
Rapid radio bursts were only discovered in 2007, followed by the discovery that some of them may repeat in 2016. Now, researchers know they may have patterns as well.
“As the largest antenna in the world, the sensitivity of FAST is proving to be conducive to revealing the intricacies of cosmic transients, including FRBs,” said lead study author Li Di, professor at astronomical observatories nationals of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement.