Fifteen repeating extragalactic signals deepen the mystery of fast radio bursts
01 September, 2017, 01:00 | Author: Sam Montgomery
FRB 121102 has been traced to a small galaxy some 3 billion light years away from Earth.
Scientists with Breakthrough Listen say they've found 15 fast radio bursts, or FRBs, from a deep space "repeater" called FRB 121102. After finding the freaky nature of the galaxy, scientists globally started monitoring and tracking its repeating burst, and now the Breakthrough Listen team finally succeeded in finding out 15 new pulses, coming from the same FRB 121102.
The Breakthrough Listen team used the Green Bank Telescope to observe FRB 121102, which was first discovered in 2012.
The unexplained signals from the other side of the universe known as fast radio bursts are a rarely observed phenomenon and only one of them has been picked up a couple of times. The signals are similar to those given off by pulsars and magnetars - rapidly-rotating neutron stars surrounded by powerful magnetic fields - but the problem there is that these signals pulse repeatedly, while the majority of FRBs are a one-and-done deal. Researchers conducted five hours long observation campaign, during which they succeed observing the new bursts coming from the 3 billion light years away galaxy. Gajjar says that the repeating nature and current state of heightened activity for FRB 121102 does seem to rule out some of the most destructive explanations, such as colliding black holes. In 2015, it was the first FRB seen to repeat, ruling out theories of the bursts' origins that involved the catastrophic destruction of the progenitor (at least in this particular instance). In the early hours of Saturday, Aug. 26, Gajjar observed that area of the sky using the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
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"The distinctive shape that the dispersion imposes on the initial pulse is an indicator of the amount of material between us and the source, and hence an indicator of the distance to the host galaxy", Breakthrough said in its report.
FRBs are bright, millisecond-long pulses of radio signals from beyond the Milky Way that were first identified only a decade ago. Two, whatever happened has happened across a span of years; remember, these radio waves have to travel across space to be picked up by our telescope.
It added: "Life on Earth consisted of only single-celled organisms, and it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve".
The biggest lead we have, ironically, is the strangeness of these 15 new FRBs - their high frequencies could help narrow down the potential explanations by making them easier to detect. Perhaps some ancient intelligent species was clued in to the emergence of life on our planet and knew that a signal sent would reach us just as we were becoming technologically sophisticated for the first time?
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