A new study on those mysterious Fast Radio Bursts from deep in space has broadened the array of possibilities for astrophysicists as to what might be causing the intensely mysterious energy bursts. An analysis of the ultra-quick radio waves that are emanating from outside the Milky Way now indicates that a new factor has to considered while searching for the Fast Radio Bursts source(s).
Cornell University researchers announced their findings via EurekAlert on March 2, noting that they had discovered a “cosmic Gatling gun” effect buried in some Cornell-archived data detected on the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico in 2015. The Fast Radio Bursts emissions lasted for roughly 10 milliseconds each. The scientists, lead by senior researcher Shami Chatterjee, concluded that the radio bursts, unlike the previous 17 Fast Radio Bursts detected — the discovery of one of which was announced in another Nature article just last week — were the product of something completely different than that of the other energy sources.
In fact, the discovery prior to Chatterjee’s team found a radio “afterglow” of a new burst (the 17th), which was described as being like a mushroom cloud following a massive explosion. His Cornell team, however, had found a new distinction among the energy waves.
“In our paper, we’re showing that our FRB can’t have an explosive origin. So, either there’s an odd coincidence, or maybe there are different types of FRBs. Either way, it seems we’ve broken this enigmatic phenomenon wide open.”
As the Independent reports, the mystery of the Fast Radio Bursts source or sources remains because the latest observations do not provide evidence of what might be causing the energy emissions. The new study only adds more questions about the enigmatic phenomena.
Past theories as to what might be causing the Fast Radio Bursts have ranged from neutron star collisions, where the force of the dying neutron stars send a shockwave out into space, to, as noted by Daily Mail, alien transmissions or emissions produced by alien technology. The Gatling gun-like bursts seem to deny the idea that the bursts might emanate from the destructive collision of neutron stars due to their quick repetition, possibly pointing toward a regenerative power source. This, of course, would fall well within the parameters of alien technology theorists. Still, space is full of mysterious oddities that, after being targeted by scientists, have been found to have empirical explanations that deny the need for alien or extraterrestrial involvement.
“We’re showing that whatever battery drives FRBs, it can recharge in minutes,” Cornell astronomy professor James Cordes said in the EurekAlert posting. “The energy of the event becomes very problematic. We’re detecting these FRBs from very far away, which means that they are intrinsically very bright. Only a few astrophysical sources can produce bursts like this, and we think they are most likely neutron stars in other galaxies.”
The first of the Fast Radio Bursts, known as the Lorimer Burst, were discovered in data obtained in 2001 from the Parkes Observatory telescopes in Australia. It lasted less than five milliseconds, according to New Scientist, and its origin, not to mention what caused the energy burst, is still unknown. However, data indicated that the burst was coming from outside the Milky Way. Over time, as more of the radio bursts were uncovered, it became clear that most of the intense radio waves were coming from an extra-galactic source.
The search for the radio waves has also provided moments of scientific amusement as well. In 2010, scientists revealed that they had discovered what appeared to be a series of Fast Radio Bursts from Parkes Observatory data but, instead of coming from deep space or from alien technology, the energy emissions were terrestrial in origin. It was later discovered that the energy bursts were perytons, Popular Science reported, very similar to Fast Radio Bursts, and had emanated from the magnetron in a microwave oven.
[Photo via Psr1909/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0]