Astronomers have discovered in space a mysterious fast radio burst with a characteristic “heartbeat”

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Astronomers have detected a mysterious heartbeat-like radio burst from a distant galaxy.

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In their findings, published in a peer-reviewed journal Nature On Wednesday, researchers noted that the signal, classified as a fast radio burst, or FRB, is the longest of its kind ever detected to date. It also displays the clearest periodic pattern for FRB found so far.

FRBs are intense, very fast bursts of radio waves in space that are visible billions of light-years away, the researchers say. note. The exact origin of FRBs is unknown, but hundreds have been discovered throughout the universe since scientists discovered the first FRB. in 2007according to news release from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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“Imagine a very distant galaxy. And sometimes there are huge explosions that emit huge bursts of radio waves.” Daniele Michilli, Researcher, Institute of Astrophysics and Space Research named after Kavli at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the study, told USA TODAY. “We don’t know what these explosions are, (but) they are so powerful that we can see them from all over the universe.”

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But the FRB found in Wednesday’s study, designated FRB 20191221A, is particularly unique in both the duration of the signal and its nature. Typical FRBs “last about a millisecond, which is much shorter than the blink of an eye,” Michilli noted. FRB 20191221A has a duration of three seconds, which is about 1000 times longer than the average.

In addition, the researchers found that bursts of radio waves repeat every 0.2 seconds, similar to a “heartbeat” pattern.

Like other FRBs, the source of FRB 20191221A remains a mystery, but the researchers noted that its emission is similar to a radio pulsar or magnetar, two types of neutron stars. neutron stars formed after the death of giant stars and the collapse of their nuclei.

Using the large CHIME radio telescope, astronomers have detected a constant radio signal from a distant galaxy that appears to be flashing with surprising regularity.

FRB 20191221A was first discovered in December 2019 by a radio telescope called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada.

The team does not know which galaxy FRB 20191221A originates from, but they estimate it is about one billion light-years away. However, according to Michilli, this is “a very rough estimate” and much remains unknown.

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He added that more telescopes are currently being built in North America, which could help detect FRBs in the future because they will work together. Telescopes of the future will also be able to detect thousands more FRBs each month.

If many more FRBs are discovered and localized, these detections could also lead to further understanding of the cosmos in the future. This is currently not possible, but studying the frequency and changes of FRB over time may one day help measure, for example, the rate of expansion of the universe.

According to Michilli, the detection of FRBs such as FRB 20191221A “gives us information about the possible origin of fast radio bursts – and gives us a new tool that, perhaps in the future, we can (use to detect) new information. about the universe.”

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