Researchers discover fast radio bursts that keep repeating themselves: They have woken up again

Fareeha Arshad
Photo byPhoto by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Astronomers made an exciting discovery when they found that the fast radio burst (FRB) known as FRB 121102 was repeating on a discernible cycle. The source goes silent for approximately 67 days, then becomes active again for around 90 days, emitting repeated millisecond radio flares before going silent again. The fact that the source has flared up again according to the predicted cycle suggests that monitoring known FRB sources and studying FRB 121102 could provide valuable insights into the cause of these phenomena.

Fast radio bursts are brief bursts of radio waves that originate from galaxies millions to billions of light-years away. They are incredibly powerful, discharging as much energy as hundreds of millions of Suns within milliseconds. Most FRBs are not repetitive, making them unpredictable and difficult to study. However, a few FRBs, including FRB 121102, have been detected repeating, offering potential clues to unravel their mysteries.

Before the discovery of its cycle, FRB 121102 was already notable for being the most active FRB ever observed since its initial detection in 2012. By observing its repeated bursts, astronomers could trace the source to a star-forming region in a dwarf galaxy located 3 billion light-years away. The discovery of periodicity in its activity based on five years of data imposed constraints on possible explanations for the FRB's origin.

In a recent preprint paper uploaded to arXiv, a team led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy reported detecting 36 bursts from FRB 121102 between September 2017 and June 2020 using the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope. They concluded that it has a periodicity of 161 days, with an active period occurring between July 9th and October 14th, 2020.

Continued investigation of FRB 121102 and other repeating FRBs will contribute to our understanding of these enigmatic cosmic phenomena. Scientists hope to gain insights into their origins and unravel the mysteries behind fast radio bursts by studying their periodicity and behaviour.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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