A group of scientists at the Swinburne University of Technology have for the first time managed to capture an enormous radio wave burst whose origins remain a mystery. The bursts, according to the researchers, date back to more than 5.5 billion years, and makes them older than our own Sun and the solar system. The Sun and the planets surrounding it — including our own Earth — are estimated to be “just” 4.5 billion-years-old. Thus, these mysterious radio wave burst predate our entire galactic neighborhood by one billion years!
While similar radio bursts have been discovered in the past as well, what makes this latest discovery unique is the fact that scientists were able to capture the wave in real time. This has taken us one step closer to understanding their actual origins. These radio bursts are known as FRBs (Fast Radio Bursts), or Blitzars, and according to VICE, fall under the category of some of the most rare and bizarre of cosmic phenomenon ever discovered.
In just a few milliseconds, these mysterious radio wave bursts emit as much radiation as a star the size of the Sun would emit in over a million years. Another thing that make them unique is that unlike other high radiation and high intensity events that release energy and radiation in multiple wavelengths, blitzars do the same in a very tiny band of the radio light spectrum. This is different from the way gamma ray bursts or supernovae take place.
Daniele Malesani, a researcher and co-author of a new paper about blitzars, clarifies the statement that says the mysterious radio bursts were recorded in real time.
“In real time here means, ‘as soon as the burst radiation arrives on the Earth. The explosion occurred in fact a long time ago, as the radiation took a long time to reach us. But this delay is common to all kinds of light emitted by the burst, so if there is radiation at other wavelengths we would still be in time to catch it.”
To further study the causes behind this burst of radiation, Maselani’s team which is lead by Emily Petroff of Swinburne University of Technology are also looking for traces of other kinds of light that might have possibly been emitted by the entity that caused these Fast Radio Bursts.
Malesani explains further.
“Before our study, the data was recorded by the instruments, but then nobody realized that the burst had occurred until much later, and we could not look for its counterpart at other wavelengths. Now, a software program continuously monitors the data as they are taken, and flags immediately any new fast radio burst. In this case, the burst was identified just ten seconds after it reached Earth.”
While there is still no clear picture on what phenomenon could have caused these mysterious radio bursts, one proposed theory talks about these being the result of an interaction between two neutron stars. These stars are known to possess the strongest magnetic fields of all objects that we currently know of, and can cause “star quakes,” which happens when the star’s crust undergoes some kind of reconfiguration.
Nevertheless, there is still no conclusive evidence that says that the mysterious radio bursts are a result of such a reconfiguration. The mystery still remains.
[Image Via NPR]