What is a Fast Radio Burst and where do they originate?

What is a Fast Radio Burst and where do they originate?

Recent discovery about FRB may be a case of mistaken identity.

Back in 2007, scientists looking through archival data  found what they later dubbed a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), an energy eruption that seems to just pop up from somewhere in the cosmos and only lasts for a few milliseconds.  So far, scientists have only been able to discover them in archival data, making a follow-up investigation impossible, according to discovery.com.

That is why the scientific community was all excited when back in February of this year, the Australian 64-meter Parkes Radio Telescope happened to spot one as it was erupting.  Astronomers around the globe were alerted and everyone turned their attention to this outburst of energy.  Finally, the Japanese Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, identified the source of the FRB signal.

Quickly, scientists collaborated their information and it turns out the source was a galaxy about 6 billion light-years from Earth, with little star formation activity, and most assumed that the energy burst were not related to star formation.

But now, after the initial excitement has worn, a new study says the finding of the FRB 150418, as it was named, could just be a case of mistaken identity.  Harvard astronomers Peter Williams and Edo Berger say they believe the actual source of FRBs is still a mystery.

FRBs are thought to be one-shot phenomenon, a blast for a few milliseconds and gone forever, but the signal from the galaxy pinpointed by the earlier investigation is still generating flashes of radio emissions, and at least some of them are as powerful as FRB 150418, according to the astronomers.

Berger says what the other astronomers saw was nothing unusual and added, “The radio emission from this source goes up and down, but it never goes away. That means it can’t be associated with the fast radio burst,” in a statement.

If this new analysis is true, we still don’t know the origin of the radio emissions from deep space, or even if they may even come from inside our won galaxy.  Berger points out we are on the trail of a puzzle, one as strange as the gamma-ray bursts of 30 years past.

The findings of the new study were accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.



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