Researchers in the US, Canada and China have independently reached that conclusion.
This is an Inside Science story.
Astronomers have detected some extremely strong and short bursts of radio waves since 2007 but have yet to determine exactly what caused them. The explosions have fueled all kinds of speculations about their origins, from exploding or colliding stars to alien civilizations.
Now, the speculation could be resolved soon, with three groups of scientists finally finding a clear and plausible source for the confusing pulses, known as the “rapid radio burst,”; or FRB. Using different telescopes, teams in the United States, Canada, and China independently studied an FRB from April that originated 30,000 light years away and lasted only a millisecond, and all three have come to the same conclusion: It could be derived from one of our own galaxies.
A magnet is the rotating core of a large dead star with a strong magnetic field. According to Christopher Bochenek, the Caltech astronomer and lead author of the US-based study, one teaspoon could weigh the equivalent of 1,000 Giza pyramids. The researchers published their findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“This discovery causes most of the fast radio explosions to come from magnets,” Bochenek said. The radio blast they had inspected, he said, was thousands of times stronger than anything else in the Milky Way.
Until now, astronomers are still struggling to explain why some FRBs are not one-off events like supernova explosions but rather do appear to repeat. Magnetars can provide answers, as they slowly spin and glow in a cycle, like a beacon. They are also abundant enough both inside and outside our galaxy to be the source of other explosions that scientists have seen.
Bochenek and his team discovered the FRB using a small network of radio antennas called STARE2, which are spread out in California and Utah to help locate explosions and distinguish them from radio signals. created by humans on Earth. Canadian astronomers using the giant CHIME telescope in British Columbia also claim that the FRB is a magnetic field, and the Chinese cooperation has made findings consistent with its own radio telescope.
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