Mysterious radio bursts confirmed


Astronomers from the Canadian Radio Telescope for Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) confirmed the frequency of a fast radio burst (Fast Radio Burst – FRB) whose signal is picked up every 16.35 days – the first to repeat regularly. The study has just been published in the journal Nature.

The CHIME radio telescope, where the first repetitive FRB was recorded.Source: Dunlap Institute / CHIME / Andre Renard

FRB 180916.J10158 + 56 travels from a galaxy 457 million light-years from Earth and was first captured in September 2018. Up until January this year, 38 explosions were recorded: for 5 days, the FRB emits its bursts , disappearing for 11 days until it is captured again, in cycles of 16 days.

The second rapid burst of repetition radio discovered was the FRB 121102, which emits bursts for 90 days, to silence for 67 days, repeating this cycle every 157 days. “Periodicity on the scale of weeks is rarely predicted in previously proposed theories,” Dongzi Li, co-author of the study and astrophysicist at the University of Toronto, told the website

According to her, the origin of the FRBs would be a neutron star, and the periodicity of the bursts would be the fault of a massive star. In this binary system, the stars would rotate around each other every 16 days; on Earth, signals from the neutron star would only be picked up when the stellar companion did not hide it.

Origin in a pulsar

Today, pulsars are the most accepted explanation for the origin of FRBs, replacing the previous idea that the bursts (then captured only once) would be the result of stellar catastrophes, such as supernovae.

Among the theories, one postulates that FRBs would originate from magnetars, neutron stars with a powerful magnetic field. This explanation, however, does not apply to FRB 180916.J0158 + 65: magnetars rotate too fast for the bursts to repeat only every 16 days. In that case, the source would be a pulsar, affected by the gravitational pull of a nearby black hole.

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