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Mysterious deep space radio burst is sending signals to Earth every 157 days, study finds

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Mysterious flashes from deep space repeat every 157 days: they come from a fast radio burst (FRB) located 3 billion light-years from Earth. A massive neutron star or a black hole could trigger the cycles.

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are a high-energy astrophysical phenomenon of unknown origin that manifests as a brief radio pulse lasting a few milliseconds. First discovered in 2007, FRBs are fleeting astrophysical events originating from the depths of extragalactic space. Its physical composition remains a mystery.

The strongest signal is FRB 121102, discovered in 2012: it is a fast radio signal capable of repeating itself. This characteristic has led scientists to wonder if its origin is different from other fast radio pulses.


What we know

A few years ago, Astronomers found that FRB 121102 is located in a star matrix region of a distant galaxy, located more than 3 billion light-years from Earth. At least more than 150 fast radio bursts have been detected coming from this point.

The enormous distance at which it is from the Earth suggests that this source produces a tremendous amount of energy with each pulse or rapid burst: FRB 121102 radiates as much energy in a millisecond as the Sun emits during a whole day.

Recent discoveries have established, on the one hand, that the pulses of FRB 121102 traverse an extremely powerful magnetic field in a dense plasma.

On the other hand, the 21 new signals analysis has determined that FRB 121102 alternates its pulses between periods of inactivity and frenzied activity.


Cyclical emissions

New research at the University of Manchester has determined that the FRB emission is known as 121102 also follows a cyclical pattern: radio bursts lasting approximately 90 days, followed by a silent period of 67 days. The same behavior then repeats every 157 days.

According to these researchers, this discovery provides an essential clue in identifying the origin of these enigmatic fast radio bursts.

The presence of a regular sequence in burst activity could imply that powerful bursts are linked to the orbital motion of a massive star, a neutron star in a binary system, or a black hole.



However, unraveling the mystery continues to be a complicated task. More than 100 FRBs have been discovered so far, most of which flash just once. Yet, in 2018 it was found that a second fast radio burst called FRB 180916.J0158 + 65, the closest signal to Earth ever located, also shows an apparent 16-day cycle: it fires shots during Four days, it shuts up for 12 days, and then starts over.

No one has an explanation for these strange cyclical behaviors of both FRBs, nor is there any relationship between the two fast radio bursts to clear up the mystery.

“This discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of the FRB,” said in a statement co-author of the latest study Duncan Lorimer of West Virginia University.

And he adds: “more observations from a larger number of FRBs will be needed in order to get a clearer picture of these periodic sources and to elucidate their origin.”


Jessica writes occasionally for BuzzyNetwork. She specialized writing with the topic related to entertainment and celebrity.