Science

Astronomers Observe Elusive Fast Radio Bursts That Repeat Every 157 Days

Astronomers Observe Elusive Fast Radio Bursts That Repeat Every 157 Days”

This discovery provides an important clue for identifying the origin of these enigmatic fast radio bursts.

Lacking a definitive natural explanation for the mystery bursts, in 2017 researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics chose to explore unnatural causes, conducting a study theorizing that a massive solar-powered alien radio transmitter may be sending off the bursts in order to power "interstellar light sails".

Previous observations showed that usually when they repeat, it's sporadic or in a cluster. An worldwide team led by Jodrell Bank astronomers studied a repeating Fast Radio Burst, which emits very short duration bright radio pulses. "During this cyclical pattern, radio bursts are emitted during a 90-day window, followed by a silent period of 67 days".

The same behaviour was then seen repeating every 157 days.

While more than 100 FRBs have actually been observed given that their discovery, the majority of them have actually been a one-off phenomenon, releasing just a single burst. Now, they know it has a pattern. And as Loeb told Gizmodo, "additional data is needed to firm up the statistical periodicity inferred" for both of these FRBs.

An worldwide team led by researchers from the Jodrell Bank Observatory used the famed 76-meter Lovell Telescope and have put forward some new research on their long-term radio monitoring campaign that was published earlier this week in the academic journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The only other periodic FRB observed to date, had a much shorter cycle, only 16 days, while the new results indicate a much longer timeline.

Lovell Telescope Jodrell Bank
Lovell Telescope Jodrell Bank. Credit Mike Peel Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics University of Manchester

So what could be the cause of FRB 121102's extended pattern? He added the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star. But that may not explain what astronomers are seeing for this particular burst because it lasts so long, the researchers said.

New research reveals that FRBs are more complex and varied than previously thought, questioning possible explanations.

According to the researchers, the detection of periods of inactivity can be just as informative as periods of activity.

An global team of astronomers led by Jodrell Bank Observatory utilized 32 FRBs found during the four-year program, combined with data from other observations.

Astronomers have detected an "exercise cycle" behind huge radio pulses emanating from a galaxy billions of light-years away, shedding gentle on one of many nice cosmic mysteries, which some recommend may very well be an indication of alien life. Similar signals were discovered about a decade ago, and repeating patterns haven't been detected again by 2016.

"This exciting discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of FRBs", researcher Duncan Lorimer said in the statement.

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