A RARE and mysterious explosion of energy from deep in space has had scientists scratching their heads as to what is causing it.
The phenomenon is only the second time something like this has been discovered.
Experts call it a fast radio burst, or FRB.
They usually show up unexpectedly, making them extremely difficult to study.
But this last one has been found frequently, spewing out an intense cosmic ping.
Wild guesses suggest they could have come from anything, including a black hole or even aliens, but nothing has been proven yet.
More likely they came from a magnetar, a type of neutron star that has a very strong magnetic field.
Initial estimates put it at about 3 billion light-years away, but it could actually be much further away.
So far, the discovery seems to have raised more questions than answers.
“The FRB field is moving very rapidly right now, and new discoveries are coming out monthly,” said Sarah Burke-Spolaor of West Virginia University (WVU).
“But big questions remain, and this object gives us challenging clues to those questions.”
What are FRBs and why are they important?
Here’s what you need to know…
- FRBs, or fast radio bursts, are a mysterious space phenomenon
- They are very fast radio bursts lasting only a few milliseconds (or thousandths of a second).
- They are recognized as huge spikes of energy that change in strength over time
- The first was discovered back in 2007 when it was found by looking back at space survey data
- Since then, many FRBs have been found
- There’s also an FRB source that’s repeatedly sending out bursts – and nobody’s quite sure why
- In fact, scientists are struggling to explain exactly what causes FRB in the first place
- Theories include rapidly rotating neutron stars, black holes, and even extraterrestrial life
- FRBs are important simply because they are so confusing to experts
- If we unravel the mysteries of their causes, we will have a much better understanding of what is happening beyond our galaxy
- And if another life form turns out to be causing these FRBs, it would be a world-changing discovery
Officially named FRB 190520, the object was discovered by a giant telescope in China three years ago.
Only now have scientists been able to present their results in the journal “Nature”.
FRBs were first discovered in 2007, and experts have seen dozens since then.
“One possibility is that the highly active source could be a newborn, and if so, it paints an intriguing evolutionary picture of FRB sources where young burst sources are associated with sustained radio emission,” said research co-author Shami Chatterjee.
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