A team of astronomers, including researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has detected a rapid radio storm that repeats the rhythm slots from an unknown source outside our Milky Way galaxy. Radio storms are 500 million light-years away. Rapid radio storms, also known as FRBs, are short, intense radio flickers that are thought to be the product of small, distant, highly dense objects.
For astrophysicists, it’s a mystery what exactly created the rapid radio storm. Typically, a FRB lasts only a few milliseconds, but in this short period of time, they can surpass the entire galaxy. Scientists say that in most cases, FRBs are a one-time flash and then disappear completely. In a few cases, astronomers have observed rapid radio storms from the same source on several occasions, but they have no obvious patterns.
The new FRB source, cataloged by researchers as FRB 180916.J0158 plus 65, was the first source to produce periodic rapid radio bursts. This pattern begins with a “noisy, four-day window” in which the radioactive source emits random radio waves, followed by a 12-day period of silence. During the 500-day observation, the researchers continued to repeat the 16-day pattern of rapid radio bursts.
The frB’s report is “like a clock,” the team said. The researchers say this pattern is an important clue that could be used to trace the physics that causes bright flashes, which no one currently knows. The FRB source was observed using the CHIME antenna array, which has no moving parts. BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 2000 AND FEBRUARY 18, 2020, CHIME PICKED UP 38 FRBS FROM A SINGLE SOURCE.
The researchers say these FRBs are something they have never seen before, marking a new phenomenon in astrophysics. The researchers found that the pattern was created by an unknown process. However, the team believes that one possibility is that these signals come from a compact object, such as a neutron star that is spinning and swaying.
If the object rotates along an axis that only points to Earth for only 4 of the 16 days, periodic radio bursts are observed. The binary star system is a possibility, as is the radio emission source around the central star. The team also acknowledged that the signals may have come from something that acts as a magnet, a neutron star that is thought to have a strong magnetic field.