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Astronomers Unveil New – and Puzzling – Features of Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts


Newswise — Quick radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-long cosmic explosions that every produce the power equal to the solar’s annual output. Greater than 15 years after the deep-space pulses of electromagnetic radio waves had been first found, their perplexing nature continues to shock scientists – and newly revealed analysis solely deepens the thriller surrounding them.

Within the Sept. 21 problems with the journal Naturesurprising new observations from a collection of cosmic radio bursts by a global workforce of scientists – together with UNLV astrophysicist Bing Zhang – problem the prevailing understanding of the bodily nature and central engine of FRBs.

The cosmic FRB observations had been made in late spring 2021 utilizing the large 5-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in China. The workforce, led by Heng Xu, Kejia Lee, Subo Dong from Peking College, and Weiwei Zhu from the Nationwide Astronomical Observatories of China, together with Zhang, detected 1,863 bursts in 82 hours over 54 days from an lively quick radio burst supply known as FRB 20201124A.

“That is the biggest pattern of FRB information with polarization data from one single supply”, stated Lee.

Latest observations of a quick radio burst from our Milky Means galaxy counsel that it originated from a magnetar, which is a dense, city-sized neutron star with an extremely highly effective magnetic area. The origin of very distant cosmological quick radio bursts, alternatively, stays unknown. And the newest observations depart scientists questioning what they thought they knew about them.

“These observations introduced us again to the drafting board,” stated Zhang, who additionally serves as founding director of UNLV’s Nevada Heart for Astrophysics. “It’s clear that FRBs are extra mysterious than what we now have imagined. Extra multi-wavelength observational campaigns are wanted to additional unveil the character of those objects.”

What makes the newest observations stunning to scientists is the irregular, short-time variations of the so-called “Faraday rotation measure”, which is the power of the magnetic area and density of particles within the neighborhood of the FRB supply. The variations went up and down throughout the first 36 days of remark and all of the sudden stopped over the last 18 days earlier than the supply was quenched.

“I equate it to filming a film of the environment of an FRB supply, and our movie revealed a fancy, dynamically evolving, magnetized surroundings that was by no means imagined earlier than,” stated Zhang. “Such an surroundings just isn’t straightforwardly anticipated for an remoted magnetar. One thing else is perhaps within the neighborhood of the FRB engine, presumably a binary companion,” added Zhang.

To watch the host galaxy of the FRB, the workforce additionally made use of the 10-m Keck telescopes situated at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Zhang says that younger magnetars are believed to reside in lively star-forming areas of a star-forming galaxy, however the optical picture of the host galaxy reveals that – unexpectedly – ​​the host galaxy is a metal-rich barred spiral galaxy like our Milky Means . The FRB location is in a area the place there is no such thing as a important star-forming exercise.

“This location is inconsistent with a younger magnetar central engine fashioned throughout an excessive explosion comparable to an extended gamma-ray burst or a superluminous supernova, extensively speculated progenitors of lively FRB engines,” stated Dong.

Publication Particulars

The research, “A quick radio burst supply at a fancy magnetized website in a barred galaxy”, appeared September 21 within the journal Nature and contains 74 co-authors from 30 establishments. Along with UNLV, Peking College, and the Nationwide Astronomical Observatories of China, collaborating establishments additionally embody Purple Mountain Observatory, Yunnan College, UC Berkeley, Caltech, Princeton College, College of Hawaii, and different establishments from China, the USA, Australia, Germany, and Israel.

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