Years Later, Radio Bursts in Space Remain A Mystery

Theories and assumptions chipped in by scientists around the globe keep stacking up, but none of them has been able to detect the source of a mysterious radio burst in space.

“The joke is that the number of theories outnumbers the number of known bursts,” says astrophysicist Emily Petroff of The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

First discovered in 2007 by Lorimer et al., Fast Radio bursts (FRB) continue to be an exciting topic of research due to their mysterious nature. FRBs seem like an aesthetic meteor shower gone mega, but they are much complicated than that.

Fast Radio Bursts in a Nutshell 

The source might be unknown, but scientists have been able to define the fast radio bursts aptly. As evident from the name, they are a burst of radio emission that last for milliseconds. These short-lived blasts are anything but ordinary. A generic FRB releases as much energy in milliseconds as the sun radiates in 3 days.

When the bursts were first spotted, they were considered to be rare. Not much attention was paid to it as enough data wasn’t available. Fortunately for the researchers, the bursts became more frequent. Unfortunately, more data hasn’t been much help.

FRBs are becoming repetitive.

There have been dozens of FRBs since 2007. However, no pattern was found, making it challenging for astrophysicists to make sense of anything. In 2012, repeated bursts were observed for the first time, allowing the researchers to collect data effectively. These bursts are typically known as FRB 121102 and have helped the scientists understand this enigma better. For the first time, the bursts weren’t random, but they were found in the same position in the sky. These bursts kept repeating on a 157-day cycle, allowing the researchers to gather the appropriate data that might answer some questions.

The data collected from FRB 121102 did set a base. The majority of scientists agreed that Magnetars cause these bursts. Magnetars are sub-class of neutrons that are formed from stellar explosions. Type-I explosions (super luminous supernovas) create these magnetars that are capable of producing such intense energy that is detectable from other galaxies.

Despite theories and research, scientists are still to come to a conclusion. Data from 2012 confirmed that these explosions are taking place outside of our galaxies. However, new data testifies that bursts are gradually nearing the universe. In fact, the first burst within the milky way was spotted this year in April. Known as FRB 200428, these bursts were accompanied by X-rays, something that has never happened before. Similar outbreaks were repeated on 3 and 24 May, some 30,000 light-years away from earth.

It’s hard to say whether the new information collected each day is bringing us closer to unraveling this enigma, or just making it all more complicated.


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Futuristic Sci Fi writer.

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