For the first time, scientists have found clues to the origins of mysterious radio pulses called Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). These bursts were first detected about a decade ago, but astronomers had until now failed to reveal the origins of FRBs. Now a team of scientists led by Kiyoshi Masui of the University of British Columbia has uncovered the most detailed record ever of the radio pulses from outer space. Findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.

Researchers Detect Mysterious Radio Pulses From 'Starquake'

FRBs originated about six billion light years away

Masui said the FRBs originated in a highly magnetized region of space, possibility due to a starquake, an earthquake-like destabilization of the surface of a strongly magnetized neutron star. Astronomers concluded that the radio waves were formed about six billion light years away from Earth, ruling out the possibility of their origin within the Milky Way galaxy.

FRBs are rapid bursts of energy from outer space that appear as short flashes of radio waves to Earth-based telescopes. Thousands of these radio pulses race through the sky every day, but they last just a fraction of a second. The newly-identified radio waves were discovered using data-mining software developed by Masui and his colleagues. The software scanned 650 hours of data, a total of 40 terabytes, collected by the Green Bank Telescope.

The radio pulses passed through two regions of ionized gas

The software helped astronomers find FRBs more quickly within what was a massive dataset. Further analysis revealed that the radio pulses also passed through two distinct regions of ionized gas, called screen, early on their way to the Earth. It indicates that the FRBs were born near or in a faraway region of dense plasma. The stronger of the two screens was located near the bursts’ source, less than 100,000 light years, placing it inside the source’s galaxy.

Masui pointed out that their study offers details on only a single event. It’s entirely possible that other FRBs are caused by some other phenomena. They will be trying to capture more pulses for further studies.