Astronomers have pinpointed the source of a mysterious radio signal

For the very first time, astronomers have managed to locate the source of a mysterious « fast radio burst » (FRB): it would come from a dwarf galaxy located more than 3 billion light-years from Earth.

“Fast radio bursts” or FRBs (Fast radio bursts) are very energetic flashes of radio waves. Highlighted for the first time in 2007, they intrigue astronomers seeking to understand this phenomenon which seems to have its origin elsewhere than in our Galaxy. Last March, scientists detected 11 such powerful bursts of radio signals originating from the same position in space known as FRB 121102 after the first detected signal. A few weeks ago, six new fast radio bursts (FRBs) were still detected outside our galaxy from an unknown object located about 3 billion light years away. But where exactly did they come from? These strong radio signals that are emitted for a few milliseconds usually disappear without a jitters. Nevertheless, a few days ago, astronomers were able to flush out the lair of one of these mysterious « radio bursts » of cosmic origin.

Shami Chatterjee and his team, from Cornell University (USA), combined radio telescopes from around the world to track down the source of this fast radio burst. True research heads which have made it possible to locate a dwarf galaxy located approximately 3 billion light-years away, the diameter of which does not exceed one tenth of our Milky Way. It remains to determine not the source of these radio signals, but their origin. The researchers have their little idea, but nothing concrete. Since the signals are repetitive, it could be a phenomenon associated with an active galactic nucleus or more plausibly giant pulses emitted by a magnetar, a neutron star producing an extremely intense magnetic field.

Credits: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NRC

Caution is therefore called for and new hunts will be necessary to discover the origin of the FRBs: “ Like good detectives, we must avoid adopting new dogmas too quickly, even if we think we have caught the suspect red-handed. “, explains the researcher.  » FRBs are nimble fugitives and they don’t all have to be alike. Finding whether FRB 121102 is representative of all fast radio bursts is the most urgent task now. Personally, I think there’s only one kind of source, but if there isn’t, fine: nature has given us two fun mysteries to solve instead of just one. jokes the researcher.


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