Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, were first observed by scientists in 2007, and now a new study has been published by astronomers in China which suggests a fascinating theory behind what may be causing this strange phenomenon.
Since 2007, astronomers have detected more than two dozen of these Fast Radio Bursts which normally last for just a few milliseconds when they occur. Over the years there have been various theories about what may be causing these FRBs, and these include magnetars, black holes, pulsars, and even exploding stars, as ScienceAlert report.
Now new research conducted by Jin-Jun Geng and Yong-Feng Huang from the Key Laboratory of Modern Astronomy and Astrophysics and the School of Astronomy and Space Science’s Yue Zhang may have finally solved the mystery of these Fast Radio Bursts.
According to the new study, FRBs may be the direct result of “strange stars” that have crusts created around them. When these crusts eventually collapse, it is thought that Fast Radio Bursts occur, many of which can be observed even though they are many light years away from us.
With repeat occurrences of FRBs, previous studies have noted that these could be caused by “highly magnetized pulsars traveling through asteroid belts, neutron star-white dwarf binary mass transfer, and star quakes of pulsars.”
In their new research, Chinese astronomers looked closely at models of neutron stars, which they call “strange stars,” and found that matter that has collapsed around them may very well be the cause of FRBs.
“It has been conjectured that strange quark matter (SQM), a kind of dense material composed of approximately equal numbers of up, down, and strange quarks, may have a lower energy per baryon than ordinary nuclear matter (such as 56 Fe) so that it may be the true ground state of hadronic matter. If this hypothesis is correct, then neutron stars (NSs) may actually be ‘strange stars.'”
During such a collapse, a small amount of magnetic energy would be moved around SQM stars near the polar cap area, thus causing the release of magnetic field energy. Positrons and electrons would then be shuffled along the magnetic field lines quickly, which would, in turn, create a shell.
One possible explanation for Fast Radio Bursts that are observed more than once in the same location is that an SQM star could be slowly recreated only to repeat the same process again at a later date.
Another theory is that only quite tiny areas of crust will completely collapse at any one time, paving the way for repeat FRBs each time what is left of the crust starts collapsing again.
The astronomers involved in this new research were quick to point out that more research will be needed on the phenomenon of Fast Radio Bursts as their model was much better at explaining FRBs that are non-repeating.
“Owing to this long reconstruction timescale, multiple FRB events from the same source seem not likely to happen in our scenario. Our model thus is more suitable for explaining the non-repeating FRBs. However, we should also note that during the collapse process, if only a small portion (in the polar cap region) of the crust falls onto the SQM core while the other portion of the crust remains stable, then the rebuilt timescale for the crust can be markedly reduced and repeating FRBs would still be possible.”
The new study on Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs, has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.