Astronomers discovered a mysterious cosmic object that exploded 1,652 times in a short period of time. Although there is still a lot of confusion about what causes the repeated explosions, they hope the latest observations will help find answers.
According to Space.com, the entity in question known as FRB 121102, is a fast radio burst (FRB) – a mysterious phenomenon first observed in 2007. FRB generates pulses in the radio line of the electromagnetic spectrum, these pulses last only a few milliseconds but produce as much energy as the Sun does in a year.
FRBs only emit energy once, but some, including FRB 121102, are known to repeat bursts. FRB 121102 is located in a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light years away. With the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherica (FAST) radio telescope in China, a team of scientists decided to conduct extensive research on this repeating FRB.
Bing Zhang – an astrophysicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (USA) – told Live Science: “Initially, the campaign was just to collect routine data about this particular entity.” Mr. Zhang added: “FAST is the world’s most sensitive radio telescope, so it can detect things that previous observatories might have missed. In about 60 hours, the researchers said. tracking found FRB 121102 to explode 1,652 times, sometimes up to 117 times per hour, far more than any previously known repeating FRB.
The team’s findings were published October 13 in the journal Nature.
Mostly, FRBs occur in the distant universe, which makes them difficult to study. But in 2020, astronomers found an FRB inside our Milky Way, which originated as a magnetic star – a form of neutron star.
However, it is still not clear whether the origin of all FRBs is magnetic. But if the origin of FRB 121102 is a magnetic star, the data obtained by Zhang and his colleagues suggests that the rapid explosions are occurring right on the star’s surface, not in the surrounding gas and dust. . Magnetic stars’ intense magnetic fields – trillions of times stronger than Earth’s – can sometimes undergo violent bursts of energy. Astronomers studying the FRB suspect that they are detecting radio waves from this opening explosion, or since such an explosion strongly impacts the matter around a star and creates shock waves. strong.
But FRB 121102 sometimes has bursts that happen in rapid succession, only a few milliseconds apart. That means they can’t come from surrounding dust and gas. Because such interstellar matter would need time to warm up, allowing it to emit radio waves and then cool down before it could give off another explosion. A few milliseconds is not long enough for this to happen continuously.
“Somehow, this source is very, very easy to explode. It’s such an explosion,” said Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysicist at McGill University in Montreal (Canada) who was not part of the study. part of its existence”.
According to Kaspi, it is possible that many repeat FRBs are generating a large number of outbreaks, and thanks to the amazing sensitivity of FAST, the new team was able to capture a great deal of FRB 121102 activity. The study is still inconclusive, so scientists will have to do more research.