DR. SKY BLOG

An update on mysterious fast radio bursts from the cosmos

Jul 7, 2021, 2:00 PM
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

One of the most amazing phenomena in astronomy is the mysterious burst of energy known as fast radio burst.

First detected in 2007, these millisecond pulses of intense energy were once thought to be background emissions from human sources, such as radar and microwave installations.

Recent research into the topic tends to agree that the source is of a cosmic nature.

One theory links these powerful broadcasts to alien civilizations deep in the heart of distant galaxies.

If that were true, the source of generating these amazing amounts of energy are hard for most humans to comprehend.
Just how powerful are these bursts?

If the burst was of the gamma-ray variety, a one-second burst releases more energy than our sun does in a billion years.

What might be the mechanism behind these bursts?

There is speculation that the energy mechanism might be the collision of two black holes, pulsar collapse, or a new variety of a highly charged magnetic star known as a magnetar.

These fast radio bursts have been detected only a few times.

A new radio telescope, the Molongo radio telescope in Australia, has been searching the sky for more of these bursts. In one evening of observation, this radio telescope can capture well over 1,000 terabytes of data.

In comparison, all the data pages on Wikipedia contain some 5.87 terabytes of data. This amazing data pool is then carefully searched for these faint millisecond pulses in the night.

Well, at least we know that the signals are not from the microwave oven down the hall!

Recently, a fast radio burst has been detected coming from our own Milky Way galaxy.

As reported before, the majority of the FRBs have been seen coming from the far reaches of the universe. Many of these short-lived phenomena are coming from sources billions of light years from Earth.

The recent FRB detected from the Milky Way, lasted only 1.5 milliseconds.

The source of the burst was located near the center of our Milky Way, around 30,000 lights years from Earth. This object has been given the designation of FRB 200428.

Upon further observation, astronomers detected the source of the FRB as a magnetar classified as SGR 1935+2154.

In just one millisecond, this object emits as much radio waves as the sun does in 30 seconds!

Located in the constellation of Vulpecula, it is some 30,000 light years from Earth.

Learn much more about FRBs here.

Learn more about magnetars here.

We will report on this amazing discovery in future columns, as the universe is a most amazing place.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

Podcasts can be found here.

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An update on mysterious fast radio bursts from the cosmos