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Astronomers track mysterious space radio waves to a source in our galaxy



In April, a team of astronomers discovered a powerful, short radio wave explosion coming from space and then successfully found where it came from: a powerful object in the galaxy’s galaxy. we. This is the first time that scientists have been able to accurately identify these mysterious radio waves coming from within the Milky Way, turning them into the closest type of waves we’ve ever seen.

Radio waves – known as rapid radio bursts, or FRBs – appear to have emerged from an extremely powerful “zombie” star lurking in our galaxy, according to three articles in the magazine. nature. Called a neutron star, this object is a super-dense remnant that forms when a star larger, larger than our Sun, collapses on its own. But this neutron star is called a magnet. It possesses an extremely strong magnetic field, stores incredible amounts of energy, is capable of deforming the shape of atoms.

Tracing the origin of this FRB is a pivotal moment for astronomers who are eager to find out how these mysterious radio rays come about. FRBs are believed to appear once every second in the night sky, each bursting only a few milliseconds. But we̵

7;ve only seen a fraction of these phenomena going on, and all of our explosions have seen appear to originate outside of our galaxy, with some located billions of light-years away. That makes it very difficult to find out exactly where they come from. “They are very mysterious signals and we don’t have a really good idea of ​​what makes them or what is the physics behind it,” said Kiyoshi Masui, assistant professor of physics at MIT, who studied save on this discovery, say The Verge.

Now with this discovery, astronomers have a closer source to work with. The magnet is located only 30,000 light years away – in our own backyard, cosmologically speaking. And it shows a solid connection between these magnets and these dynamic space radio waves. “This is the missing link”, Masui said. “We have now seen a fast radio explosion coming from a magnet, so it proves that at least some of the fast radio explosions we see in the universe come from magnetic fields.”

Scientists have been trying to trace the origin of FRBs since the first was discovered in 2007. But because FRBs are so fast, detecting them often requires a combination of finding the right place, right. time with the right equipment. The astronomers were in luck when they found several seemingly repeating FRBs, flashing over and over again on the same part of the sky. These repetitive explosions have helped scientists locate galaxies where these radio waves originated. However, it is still unclear exactly what object inside these galaxies is producing the FRB.

That is why this discovery is so important. Two different observatories in North America – CHIME in Canada and STARE2 in the US – discovered this FRB comes from the same part of the sky, enhancing the signal’s reliability. The FRB is also very bright. According to Christopher Bochenek, a graduate student in astronomy at Caltech who heads the discovery team STARE2, in fact, a 4G LTE receiver on a regular cell phone can receive signals coming from the side. that galaxy.

“When I first looked at the data, I was frozen and basically paralyzed with excitement,” Bochenek said during a press call.

The timing and location of the flash along with another cosmic event happening nearby. Just days before FRB was discovered, astronomers noticed that a known magnet had become quite active in the sky, emitting X-rays and gamma rays. After analyzing the data from the FRB, astronomers at both CHIME and STARE2 confirmed that the radio waves coincided with a particularly large burst of X-rays from a magnet. The discovery made headlines in the astronomy community earlier this year, with initial scientific reports on the relationship posted online and in the media. The results of the researchers have now been reviewed by other scientists and are being officially presented in the journal nature this week.

Magnetars can make a pretty great origin story for many FRBs. Scientists suspect these deadly magnetic-field stars may stay behind radio flashes for a while, as they are energetic and easy to emit bursts of different types of light in one. part seconds. “This discovery paints a picture where some and perhaps most – given the prevalence of these events in the universe – fast radio bursts from other galaxies,” Bochenek said. magnets.

But astronomers have not yet announced that the mystery behind the FRB has been solved. First, astronomers continued to track the magnet as it produced more X-rays and gamma rays, but subsequent events did not match any important radio bursts. Plus, this blast is still relatively weak compared to the other FRBs we’ve seen. It is actually 1000 times weaker than the weakest FRB discovered from outside our galaxy. Therefore, the gameplay mechanics are not fully understood.

The good news is that astronomers have some pretty good suspects to probe. Not only could they continue to study this one magnetic field, but there are also about 30 other known magnets that could be of more attention now. And astronomers can focus on finding FRBs in other galaxies where magnetic fields are suspected. That might give us a better understanding if an event is part of – or the last part of the FRB puzzle.

“We still don’t really know exactly how lucky we were,” Bochenek said. “This could be like once in five years. Or maybe some of these things happen every year. But with more facts, we should be able to say exactly how lucky we were. “


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