Scientists detect a mysterious radio signal coming from space


Astronomers have now detected a persistently active fast radio burst. This is the second time that such a signal coming from space has been detected by scientists, which poses more questions about the nature of the mysterious phenomena.

FRB are intense but brief flashes of radio frequency emissions and these typically last milliseconds. These are known to send out repeat radio waves multiple times. However, scientists are yet to fully understand the phenomenon, and they were first discovered back in 2007.  The discovery of FRB is credited to graduate student David Narkevic and his supervisor Duncan Lorimer, according to The object, called FRB 190520, was found by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in China. A burst from the object occurred on May 20, 2019, and was found in data from that telescope in November of that year. Follow-up observations with FAST showed that, unlike many other FRBs, it emits frequent, repeating bursts of radio waves.

Observations with the VLA in 2020 pinpointed the object’s location, and that allowed visible-light observations with the Subaru telescope in Hawaii to show that it is in the outskirts of a dwarf galaxy nearly 3 billion light-years from Earth. The VLA observations also found that the object constantly emits weaker radio waves between bursts. The astronomers speculated that FRB 190520 may be a “newborn,” still surrounded by dense material ejected by the supernova explosion that left behind the neutron star. As that material eventually dissipates, the dispersion of the burst signals also would decline. Under the “newborn” scenario, they said, the repeating bursts also might be a characteristic of younger FRBs and dwindle with age.

“The FRB field is moving very fast right now and new discoveries are coming out monthly. However, big questions still remain, and this object is giving us challenging clues about those questions,” said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, of WVU.



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