The astrophysical phenomenon of Fast Radio Burst (FRB) which had been baffling scientists and space researchers for years has finally been solved in that the exact source of the FRB, which lasts for a few milliseconds, has been identified by a team of international astronomers.
Call it a stroke of luck or the result of years of study, when astronomers found the FRB 121102, a repeating series of radio bursts coming from a single location far outside the milky-way.
An astronomer at the Cornell University who happened to initially discover the repetitive FRB 121102 gave him the idea that the repeating phenomenon should be continually monitored with the help of a network of powerful radio telescopes spread across the globe, from Hawaii to Europe – and sure enough, the idea has paid off as Chatterjee and his international team of astronomers have been able to accurately pinpoint the source of the FRB.
FRBs never seemed to repeat itself until FRB 121102 was first discovered on November 2, 2012, at precisely 06:35:53.244 (Date and Time [UTC] for 1581.804688 MHz) by the Peurto Rico-Arecibo Observatory radio telescope.
The location according to the new findings is a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away from Earth.
“The host galaxy for this FRB appears to be a very humble and unassuming dwarf galaxy, which is less than 1 percent of the mass or our Milky Way galaxy,” said Shriharsh Tendulkar, a postdoctoral researcher at the McGill University and one of the astronomers from the team that located the burst. “That’s surprising. One would generally expect most FRBs to come from large galaxies which have the largest numbers of stars and neutron stars — remnants of massive stars,” he added in his statement.
In another statement, Casey Law, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “We really pushed hard to capture this terabyte-per-hour datastream reliably and set up a real-time platform for extracting these very faint fast bursts from that massive datastream.” Casey Law, by the way, is the creator of the analysis software to search for rapid, one-off bursts.
Therefore, the most pertinent question would be; what cosmic event creates these fast bursts of radio waves to reach Earth from a distance of 3 billion light-years, lasting for only milliseconds, and has the capacity of generating more energy than 500 million suns?
Well, it’s too early for the researchers to give a definitive answer. Could it be aliens? Unlikely!
“This dwarf galaxy has fewer stars, but is forming stars at a high rate, which may suggest that FRBs are linked to young neutron stars,” Tendulkar clarified. “There are also two other classes of extreme events — long duration gamma-ray bursts and superluminous supernovae — that frequently occur in dwarf galaxies, as well. This discovery may hint at links between FRBs and those two kinds of events.”
The findings have been detailed in three studies published in the ‘Nature’ the international weekly journal of science (website: http://www.nature.com) and can also be found in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.