Fast radio bursts (FRBs) — brief, bright flashes of radio waves that last a few milliseconds that release incredible energy–equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years–remain one of the great unsolved astrophysical mysteries with conjectures ranging from a black hole converting into a white hole and exploding to the collision of cosmic strings — proposed remnants of the Big Bang, galaxy-sized filaments of raw energy that may be threaded through spacetime.
“With fast radio bursts, it’s always felt like the more answers we get, the more questions we have,” said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University who was not involved in the new research. “But I think we’re reaching the peak of that mountain.”
“We haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence,” said theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.”
Loeb and Manasvi Lingam, also at Harvard, studied the feasibility of creating a radio transmitter strong enough for it to be detectable across immense distances from remote galaxies. They found that, if the transmitter were solar powered, the sunlight falling on an area of a planet twice the size of the Earth would be enough to generate the needed energy. Such a vast construction project is well beyond our technology, but within the realm of possibility according to the laws of physics.
Now, researchers analyzing data from the Canada’s CHIME radio telescope –a unique telescope designed to discover new “Fast Radio Bursts” and pulsars– traced back 400 observations made using the telescope and determined a newly detected FRB from a spiral galaxy approximately 500 million light-years away that repeated in a steady, 16-day pattern. The FRB signals were observed to arrive approximately once an hour for four days and then suddenly cease—only to start up again 16 days later.
The repeating pattern, reports Science X, suggests “the source could be a celestial body of some kind orbiting around a star or another body. In such a scenario, the signals would cease when they are obstructed by the other body. But that still does not explain how a celestial body could be sending out such signals on a regular basis. Another possibility is that stellar winds might be alternately boosting or blocking signals from a body behind them. Or it could be that the source is a celestial body that is rotating.”
Source: Periodic activity from a fast radio burst source, arXiv:2001.10275 [astro-ph.HE] arxiv.org/abs/2001.10275
Cosmic string Image at the top of the page, with thanks to compositor & motion designer, Buwaneka Saranga
The Daily Galaxy, Max Goldberg, via Science X Network/Phys.org