Mysterious repeating radio bursts baffle physicists

An artist's conception of a type of neutron star called a magnetar

An artist's conception of a type of neutron star called

For just the second time, scientists have recorded the repeat of a mysterious cosmic flash know as a fast radio burst (FRB). Until now, there had only been one repeating fast radio burst - this provides valuable data.

Fast radio bursts, also known as FRBs, are powerful spikes of radio emissions that emanate from galaxies beyond our own Milky Way and last for mere milliseconds.

The BBC reports that there are a number of theories about what could be causing the bursts.

An artist impression of the outer casing of a neutron star.

The only other detected repeating FRB signal was picked up in November 2012. As they reported in two papers in Nature yesterday, researchers detected 13 radio bursts, six of which came from the same location.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada said they've discovered the second so-called "repeating fast radio burst" (FRB) ever recorded, according to a news release published January 9.

The fast radio bursts suggest there could be more out there, researchers say. And when there are increased sources and more repeaters for the goal of conducting a study, the cosmic puzzles would become easier for them to have better understanding and it would then be clear that what the actual source of those blasts was.

"FRBs are likely to be generated in the dense, turbulent regions of host galaxies", said the studies involved astronomer Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University, to the AFP news Agency.

"Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence", said Loeb.

Repeating FRBs are even more rare, with the first, labeled FRB 112102, detected in 2007 following a review of telescope data that had been collected in 2001.

In October researchers used a radio telescope in Australia to almost double the number of known fast radio bursts.

Added Landecker: "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

The telescope processes radio signals recorded by thousands of atennas with a large signal processing system and is the largest of any on earth. Other bursts could be emitted at lower frequencies, but if this were the case, our current telescopes would not be able to detect them (400 megahertz is the limit).

The discovery is the result of a new high-powered telescope that is able to map a three degree-wide section of the sky every night, compared to a traditional telescope that can only focus on one spot. CHIME is a partnership between the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Canadian National Research Council's Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. Before they were spotted over the summer, astronomers reportedly found between 50 and 60 examples of the radio bursts.

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