The mysteries of space continue to thicken
Mysterious rapid radio bursts from deep space have intrigued astronomers for years. While scientists believed that FRB signal 121102 was randomly repeating itself, this new international study shows that it actually has a cyclic activity that may help reveal its origin.
A SIGNAL FROM A DWARF GALAXY ABOUT 3 BILLION LIGHT-YEARS AWAY
Observed for the first time in 2007, fast radio bursts (FRBs) are particularly intense cosmic pulses usually lasting only a few milliseconds. Although many of these events occur only occasionally, as was recently the case with the first such signal from the Milky Way, others are repeated randomly.
At least that’s what astronomers thought until recently for signal FRB 121102, discovered in 2012 and associated with a visible object located in a dwarf galaxy some three billion light years from Earth.
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In this new research presented in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, an international team of astronomers studied 32 radio bursts detected over a four-year observation period, along with data from pre-event studies, and determined that the activity of FRB 121102 actually followed a cyclical pattern. Its radio bursts occur within 90 days followed by a silence of 67 days, an activity that repeats itself on a 157-day cycle.
THE SECOND KNOWN FRB WITH CYCLICAL ACTIVITY
This is only the second time that a cyclical pattern is identified for an FRB. Last January, researchers at Cornell University announced that they had identified a source about half a billion light-years away from Earth for FRB 180916, which was active on a 16-day cycle, with radio bursts occurring over a 4-day period, followed by a 12-day silence. Of course, such disparities in the duration of these cycles raise new questions about the phenomena at the origin of these signals.
According to the authors of this new study, their periodicity could be related to the orbital movements of celestial objects such as stars, neutron stars, and black holes. This is likely supported by the fact that FRB 121102 emissions are extremely twisted and polarized, suggesting the presence of a massive black hole nearby.
“This exciting discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of FRBs,” says Duncan Lorimer, lead author of the study. « However, further observations of more RBFs will be needed to get a clearer picture of these periodic sources and elucidate their origin. »
Source : New Atlas