Physicists have found a way to simulate the origin of fast radio bursts

(ORDO NEWS) — Fast radio bursts are one of the greatest cosmic mysteries of our time. These are extremely powerful, but extremely short bursts of electromagnetic radiation in the radio range, releasing as much energy in milliseconds as 500 million suns.

For years, scientists have puzzled over what might be causing these short bursts, found in galaxies millions to billions of light-years away. Then, in April 2020, we got a really strong lead: a short, powerful burst of radio waves from something inside the Milky Way – a magnetar.

This suggests that at least some fast radio bursts are produced by these highly magnetized dead stars. Now physicists have developed a way to replicate in the lab what we think happens in the early stages of these crazy explosions, according to the theory of quantum electrodynamics (QED).

“Our lab simulation is a small-scale analogue of the magnetar environment,” says physicist Kenan Koo of Princeton University. “This allows us to analyze QED vapor plasma.”

A magnetar is a type of dead star called a neutron star. When a massive star reaches the end of its lifespan, its outer material is blown away, and the core, no longer supported by the external pressure of nuclear fusion, collapses under its own gravity, forming a superdense object with a powerful magnetic field. . This is a neutron star.

Some neutron stars have even stronger magnetic fields. This is a magnetar. We don’t know how they do it, but their magnetic fields are about 1,000 times stronger than those of a typical neutron star, and a quadrillion times stronger than those of Earth.

Scientists believe that fast radio bursts are the result of a tension between a magnetic field so strong that it distorts the shape of a magnetar and the internal pressure of gravity.

It is believed that the magnetic field is also responsible for the transformation of matter in space. around the magnetar into a plasma consisting of matter-antimatter pairs. These pairs are made up of a negatively charged electron and a positively charged positron, and are thought to play a role in emitting rare, repeating fast radio bursts.

This plasma is called a pair plasma, and it is very different from most of the plasma in the universe. Normal plasma consists of electrons and heavier ions.

Matter-antimatter pairs in paired plasma have equal masses and spontaneously form and annihilate each other. The collective behavior of a paired plasma is very different from that of an ordinary plasma.

Because the strength of the magnetic fields involved is so strong, Koo and his colleagues developed a way to create a paired plasma in the lab using other means. .

“Instead of simulating a strong magnetic field, we use a strong laser,” Qu explains.

“It converts energy into twin plasma through the so-called QED cascades. The pair then the plasma shifts the laser pulse to a higher frequency. This exciting result demonstrates the promise of creating and observing QED pair plasma in laboratories and allows experiments to be carried out to test theories about fast radio bursts.”

The method involves creating a high-speed electron beam that travels at close to the speed of light. This beam is fired by a medium-power laser, and a pair of plasma is created as a result of the collision.

Moreover, it slows down the resulting plasma. This could solve one of the problems found in previous experiments to create paired plasmas – the observation of their collective behavior.

“We think we know what laws govern their collective behavior. But until we actually create a paired plasma in a laboratory that demonstrates collective phenomena that we can investigate, we cannot be absolutely sure about this, ”says physicist Nat Fish from Princeton University.

“The problem is that collective behavior in paired plasmas is notoriously difficult to observe. So an important step for us was to think of this as a joint production and observation problem, recognizing that a different method of observation loosens the conditions of what needs to be produced and in turn leads us to a more practical user object.” p>

The observational experiment is yet to be done, but it offers a way of doing these studies that was not possible before. This reduces the need for extremely powerful equipment that may be beyond our technical capabilities and budget.

The team is now preparing to test their ideas with a series of experiments at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. They hope this will help them learn how magnetars generate paired plasmas, how these paired plasmas can produce fast radio bursts, and determine what previously unknown physical phenomena may be involved.

“In a sense, who we are This is the beginning of a cascade of radio bursts,” says physicist Sebastian Meren of Stanford University and SLAC.

But the first part is just to observe the scattering of electron beams and once we do that we will improve the laser intensity to reach higher densities to really see the electron-positron pairs. The idea is that our experiment will evolve over the next two years or so.”

Thus, it may take a little longer until we get responses to fast radio bursts. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that unraveling this fascinating mystery is definitely worth the wait.

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