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Fast radio burst

  • Published
    10th Jun, 2022
Context

Astronomers have recently reported a fast radio burst (FRB) whose characteristics are different from almost all other FRBs previously detected, except one.

About

Fast radio burst (FRB):

  • FRBs are bright flashes of light that appear for a few milliseconds and then vanish.
  • The phenomenon was discovered in 2007, by graduate student David Narkevic and his supervisor Duncan Lorimer.
  • The source of these highly energetic events is a mystery, but clues as to their nature are being gradually collected.
  • Since 2007, 140 more were discovered until June 2021. Their origins are unknown, and their appearance is unpredictable.

Fast radio burst 20190520B:

  • The new source, Fast radio burst 20190520B, was detected with the Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou, China in May 2019.
  • It emits frequent, repeating bursts of radio waves. And between bursts, it constantly emits weaker radio waves.
  • Only one FRB has been previously observed to behave this way. Called FRB 121102, which was discovered in 2012.

How a Burst Bursts

  • Astronomers have racked up roughly 50 separate theories to explain fast radio bursts — a tally that until recently outnumbered the events.
  • The ideas include a variety of wild scenarios involving evaporating black holes, snapping cosmic strings, and even the propulsion systems of alien civilizations.

What is a magnetar?

  • A magnetar is a neutron star, “the crushed, city-size remains of a star many times more massive than our Sun.”
  • The magnetic field of such a star is very powerful, which can be over 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet and up to a thousand times stronger than typical neutron stars.
  • Neutron stars are formed when the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse when it reaches the end of its life.
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