New FRB signal sounded nearly 2,000 times in just two months, raising the mystery

(ORDO NEWS) — We have detected a strange new signal from across the chasm of time and space.

A repetitive source of fast radio bursts discovered last year emitted a whopping 1,863 flares in 82 hours, out of a total of 91 hours of observations.

This hyperactive behavior has allowed scientists to characterize not only the galaxy in which the source is located and its distance from us, but also what constitutes the source.

The object, named FRB 20201124A, was detected by the 500m Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in China and described in a new paper led by astronomer Heng Xu of Peking University in China. p>

So far, most evidence points to a magnetar a neutron star with unusually strong magnetic fields as the source of these FRB emissions.

If FRB 20201124A really comes from one of these wild space beasts, it looks like an unusual specimen.

“These observations have taken us back to the drawing board,” says astrophysicist Bing Zhi. ang from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“It is clear that FRBs are more mysterious than we imagined. To further reveal the nature of these objects, additional multiwave observational campaigns are needed.”

Fast radio bursts have been a source of bafflement to astronomers since they were first detected 15 years ago in archival data dating back to 2001: a burst of incredibly powerful radio emission that lasted just the blink of an eye.

Since then, much more has been discovered: millisecond bursts of radio waves, releasing up to 500 energies at that moment. million suns.

Most recorded eruptions have only erupted once, making them difficult to study (let alone understand). Only a handful of them have been found to be repeated, which has helped scientists at least trace them back to host galaxies.

Then, in 2020, there was a breakthrough. For the first time, a fast radio burst was detected in the Milky Way, prompting astrophysicists to trace the phenomenon to the activity of a magnetar.

This is the most recent extraordinary example of an FRB – another example of a rare repeater. o Months of observations FRB 20201124A has provided astronomers with the largest sample of polarized fast radio bursts than any other FRB source.

Polarization refers to the orientation of light waves in three-dimensional space. By studying how much this orientation has changed since the light left its source, scientists can understand the medium it has traveled through. For example, strong polarization indicates a strong magnetic environment.

Based on the large amount of data obtained by FRB 20201124A, astronomers were able to conclude that the source is a magnetar.

But there was something strange. The way the polarization changed over time suggested that the strength of the magnetic field and the particle density around the magnetar fluctuated.

“I equate it to filming a film about the environment of an FRB source, and our film showed a complex, dynamic, magnetized environment that was unimaginable before,” Zhang explains.

“Such an environment is not directly expected for an isolated magnetar. Something else might be in the vicinity of the FRB. the engine is possibly a double companion.”

This companion, the data suggests, could be a hot blue Be-type star, which is often found in neutron star companions. The evidence for this was presented in a separate paper led by astronomer Faiying Wang of Nanjing University in China.

But there was also something else unusual.

As a type of neutron star, magnetars are the collapsing cores of massive stars that have run out of fuel to burn and create external pressure and collapse under their own gravity.

Such stars quickly burn their fuel and do not live long. , ejecting its outer material as a supernova as the core collapses.

Because of their very short lives, these young magnetars are thought to be in regions where star formation is still taking place.

Stars live their short lives and die, creating new clouds of material to give birth to new stars. This is a wonderful cosmic circle of life.

But FRB 20201124A has been found in a galaxy very similar to the Milky Way. There isn’t much star formation going on here at home, so there shouldn’t be a stellar boom near our unusual new friend FRB.

FRB 20201124A is not the only source of FRB that can be found in a galaxy that is relatively devoid of star formation.

The growing number suggests that there is some important piece of information we may be missing, some hole in our understanding of FRB magnetars, how they form, and where they are found.

But the characterization of the source means that we have a new place to look for answers. The work of Wang and his colleagues suggests that binary neutron stars and Be stars may be one of the best places to look for fast radio burst-like signals.

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