Thursday, March 3, 2016 10:55 am
Repeating radio signals coming from a mystery source far beyond the Milky Way have been discovered by scientists. While one-off fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been detected in the past, this is the first time multiple signals have been detected coming from the same place in space.
FRBs are radio signals from deep space that last for just a few milliseconds. Since their discovery over a decade ago, scientists have been searching for more to try to understand their origin. At present, there are several theories as to what they could be, with most involving some cataclysmic event like a supernova or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.
All of the events seen so far appear to have been one-offs, with subsequent observations failing to find follow-up bursts coming from the same position as the original. However, an international team of researchers has now discovered an additional 10 bursts coming from the same direction as FRB 121102, using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Publishing their findings in the journal Nature, the researchers report the subsequent bursts have the same dispersion measures and sky positions as the original FRB. This, they say, means the source must have survived whatever event caused the FRB to be produced in the first place – i.e. it cannot have been a cataclysmic one-off event. They also found the bursts differed in brightness from other FRBs, suggesting a different source.
Paul Scholz, from McGill University, was the first person to notice the repeating burst: “I knew immediately that the discovery would be extremely important in the study of FRBs.”
Read more: International Business Times