The mysterious and powerful fast radio bursts (FRBs) that have baffled scientists are not generated by one-off cataclysms, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. Scientists revealed Wednesday that these radio waves are coming from outside our galaxy in clusters. The fast radio bursts were discovered only about a decade ago.
Origin of the fast radio bursts still a mystery
It is the first time astronomers have found the FRBs to repeat, suggesting that they are coming from a powerful source. It was previously theorized that the enigmatic bursts were one-off phenomena. Only 17 of them have been detected since 2007, though researchers believe more than 10,000 bursts occur every day. The FRBs emit as much energy in a millisecond as our Sun emits in more than 10,000 yeas.
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For years, astronomers have been trying to understand the nature of these brief flashes of radio waves that are sent across the universe. But their origin is still unknown. Scientists have had a hard time finding out in which direction to point their telescopes to observe the fast radio bursts as they happen. Until now, it was speculated that the radio waves were produced by cataclysmic events like neutron stars collapsing into black holes or stars exploding into supernovas.
These waves differ in brightness and spectra from other FRBs
However, these scenarios are not consistent with multiple pulses coming in clusters. Scientists led by Laura Spitler of the Max Planck Institute picked up 10 fast radio bursts, all grouped within the space of a minute, while sifting through data from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Researchers eliminated the possibility of it being a one-off phenomena because the FRBs they studied tended to occur repeatedly.
Laura Spitler said, “Not only did these bursts repeat, but their brightness and spectra also differ from those of other FRBs.” It indicates that there could be more than one sources of the fast radio bursts. Locating the origins of these bursts would be “critical to understanding its properties,” said co-author Jason Hessels. Identifying the source could also help researchers find out how long it took the waves to reach Earth.