Astronomers have found an activity cycle in another fast radio burst. The discovery could be a massive clue about the nature of fast radio bursts (FRB).
FRBs are known as extragalactic flashes of light. They contain a severe wallop, releasing in a few milliseconds as much energy as the Sun does in a century. Here is what the astronomers discovered recently.
Another FRB Situation Intrigues Astronomers
The FRBs were spotted for the first time back in 2007. The cause of these bursts is still a mystery after almost a decade and a half. The explanations range from merging superdense neutron stars to advanced alien civilizations.
Since then, astronomers succeeded in finding over 100 FRBs, and most of them are one-offs, flashing only a single time. In January 2020, however, something odd happened.
Astronomers stated that one member of the “repeater” category, dubbed FRB 180916.J0158+65, seems to display a 16-day activity cycle; it fires off flashes for four days, then it goes quiet for 12 days. Then, everything starts all over again.
The FRB 180916 was the first one to burst in such a period way. And recently, astronomers discovered another. They observed the known repeater FRB 121102 with the Lovell Telescope, at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in England, for five years.
The astronomers’ results were astonishing. They spotted a 157-day activity cycle; 121102 appears to glow for 90 days and then go quiet for 67, according to the new study.
It’s still unknown what’s truly behind such activity, even if astronomers do have a few ideas. For instance, periodic glows could be triggered by a wobble in the rotational axis of a highly magnetized neutron star, named magnetar. Or they could also be related to the orbital motions of a neutron star in a binary system.
Duncan Lorimer, the associate dean for the study at the West Virginia University, stated: “Further observations of a larger number of FRBs will be needed to obtain a clearer picture of these periodic sources and elucidate their origin.”
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