Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts

Arecibo photoRecently, scientists have seen fast radio bursts coming from the same direction as one spotted in 2012. Initially announced in 2007, fast radio bursts are “millisecond chirps of radio waves pinging through the heavens” which were never seen in the same place before.

While some published research says we’ve solved the mystery of these fast radio bursts, others are not so sure:

Ultimately, astronomers need to make more measurements of these fleeting signals to figure out the puzzle. Arecibo is the most sensitive radio telescope in the world, which could be why it is the only one to have picked up repeated FRBs.

Whatever these mysterious bursts are, we have at least identified a patch of sky where they have repeated a fair number of times, and this tells us that the cause of the bursts isn’t destroyed in the process of making them.

“The fact it repeats rules out—for this object anyway—any of the models that are just one-offs, whether they involve mergers or evaporating black holes or something else,” says study co-author James Cordes, an astronomer at Cornell University. Instead, Cordes says, the more probable culprit is some sort of powerful outburst from a rotating neutron star.

The trouble is, no neutron stars have ever been seen behaving quite as strangely as the one Cordes guesses might be behind these FRBs

Photo by matt.terich