A Strange Signal is Emitting from the Milky Way
How many sci-fi movies begin with an unknown mysterious signal coming from space?
Perhaps we are now witnessing a real live sci-fi story.
Scientists have recently reported a burst of cosmic radio waves originating somewhere in our galaxy, and no one is quite sure of its identity. They are emitting bright flashes of energy that are repeating themselves over and over.
These waves are more powerful than those coming from the sun. Some experts postulate that they are coming from a much younger star located around 30,000 light-years from Earth.
5 Fascinating Dark Matter Questions that Remain a Secret
Why dark matter continues to astound scientists
These cosmic signals were first detected last spring by several telescopes. A new research paper indicates that it was repeated twice since that time. These highly intense emissions typically last just a fraction of a second and are known as fast radio bursts (FBRs).
Fast radio bursts (FBRs)
The first FRBs were detected in 2007. Most of them are so far away that no one can ascertain their origin. Over 100 of these events have been reported as of now, but very few of them have ever repeated themselves, and much less has ever done so in a predictable fashion.
As one might imagine, they are challenging to study and observe, and they have eluded astronomers for ages. Researchers have also reported that radio flares were recently discovered, which have proven to be the closest FRBs ever identified. They believe these FRBs were emitted from a celestial body known as a magnetar.
What are magnetars?
Magnetars are actually neutron stars that have a very powerful magnetic field. In fact, few of them even exist in the entire Milky Way. Some physicists have proposed that magnetars could be producing FRBs, but they had no proof or evidence.
These news findings do dismiss the notion that these signals were coming from an alien civilization — which was eagerly touted by UFO hunters. This new research was recently published in Nature Astronomy and further builds on an earlier paper about the FRB — which is called FRB 200428.
The study finally confirmed the theory that the signal from the magneton star SGR 1935+2154 was indeed an FRB.
New FBRs revealed
The new research indicates that two new FRBs of different intensities were emitted from the star since April 2020 — which means the bursts are repetitive.
Scientists led by Chalmers University of Sweden used four European radio telescopes to evaluate the bursts' source every night for four weeks after its discovery.
Emergence is The New Amazing Field of Science
This fascinating look at complex systems is raising eyebrows
In May, the Westerbork Radio Telescope from the Netherlands witnessed 2-millisecond FRBs directly from the magnetar, which was 1.4 seconds apart.
“We clearly saw two bursts, extremely close in time,” claims Dr. Kenzie Nimmo from the University of Amsterdam, who was a team member.
“Like the flash seen from the same source on April 28, this looked just like the fast radio bursts we’d seen from the distant universe, only dimmer. The two bursts we detected on May 24 were even fainter than that,” she further stated.
One question possibly answered
This data provided strong evidence of the connection between magnetars and FRBs — which actually goes a long way to solving one of the biggest mysteries about the universe. And since these bursts come in varying signal strengths, it is now believed that more than one process within these magnetars is producing these cosmic signals.
Of course, the one lingering question is exactly how do magnetars create these FRBs?
A physicist named Dr. Kiyoshi Masui, who studies FRBs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had commented earlier this year: “We’re trying to piece together what it all means.”
“We’ve got our eyes open for other magnetars, but the big thing now is to study this one source and really drill down to see what it tells us about how FRBs are made.”
F. Kirsten, M. P. Snelders, M. Jenkins, K. Nimmo, J. van den Eijnden, J. W. T. Hessels, M. P. Gawroński, J. Yang. (November 16, 2020). Detection of two bright radio bursts from magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-01246-3.