Astronomers from Canada and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have detected an intriguing and unusually continuous radio signal from a galaxy several billion light years from Earth.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the signal is known as a fast radio burst, or FRB. These extremely powerful bursts of radio waves usually last a few milliseconds. What sets this new signal apart is that it lasts for up to three seconds. To deepen the puzzle further, the FRB is sliced with periods of radio waves that repeat every 0.2 seconds in a clear pattern.
The signal marked FRB 20191221A is the oldest FRB signal ever detected. It also has the clearest periodic pattern ever seen in the FRB, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
While this signal can be identified for a specific distant galaxy, its exact source is unknown. Currently, evidence suggests it’s coming from a radio pulsar or magnetar, which are two types of neutron stars, according to the university. They form when stars with a greater mass than the Sun explode in a supernova. Its outer layers could explode, leaving incredibly dense tiny cores that continued to crumble. The force of gravity is so strong that protons and electrons combine to form neutrons, hence the name.
“There aren’t many things in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals,” Danielle Micheli, a postdoctoral researcher at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT said in a statement. “One example that we know of in our galaxy is radio and magnetic pulsars, which rotate and produce a beam similar to a beacon. We think this new signal could be a magnetar or a pulsar in doping.”
The discovery of this FRB was reported in the journal nature of mood this week. Calvin Leung, Juan Mina-Barra, Kaitlin Sheen, and Kiyoshi Masui of MIT co-authored the article with Mitchell.
The signal was detected by the Canadian Hydrogen Density Mapping Experiment, or Pumpkin. This radio telescope, located in British Columbia, constantly monitors the sky for radio waves emitted in the early periods of the universe. It is also sensitive to FRBs and has detected hundreds of such signals since 2018.
While working as a researcher at McGill University in December 2019, Mitchell was reading CHIME data when he noticed something strange.
“It was extraordinary,” he said, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It wasn’t very long, it lasted about three seconds, but there were periodic spikes that were remarkably accurate, emitting every millisecond—boom, boom, boom—like a heartbeat. This is the first time the same signal has been periodic” .
Mitchell told MIT that the intense flashes detected in the FRB could originate from a neutron star that is not normally very bright as it rotates, but for some reason caused a large series of explosions in a three-second period that CHIME was able to manage. beat me up
“CHIME has now discovered many FRBs with different properties,” said Micheli. We have seen some live inside highly turbulent clouds, while others seem to live in clean environments. From the characteristics of this new signal, we can say that around this source there is a plasma cloud, which must be very turbulent. ”
Astronomers now hope to pick up more periodic radio signals from this source, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If they did, the signals could be used as a way to measure the expansion rate of the universe.
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