Scientists Make a Discovery That May Ultimately Shed Light on the Origin of the Enigmatic Signals

Since their discovery raised the possibility that extraterrestrials may be attempting to contact Earth, mysterious radio transmissions have been a popular topic in astronomy.

Random Oddly Powerful Flashes

These strangely intense bursts of light that emerge momentarily and at random from space are recorded in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) were discovered for the first time only 15 years ago, but their source has never been identified by experts.

An international team of experts has now uncovered a discovery that might finally provide hints as to the origins.

According to them, one of these FRBs, 20190520B, likely comes from a binary system on the periphery of a dwarf galaxy that is deficient in metals and is located close to 3 billion light-years from Earth.

Although the specific source is unknown, which raises the possibility that extraterrestrial life may be to blame, it seems to be emanating from a “compact object” that is nearby a large star with a powerful stellar wind.

The object may be a black hole or a magnetar, a highly magnetized neutron star, although neither idea “quite fits when considering all the data,” according to scientists participating in the new study.

Supermassive balck hole at galaxy center, stars and nebula in deep space.

They reached that conclusion after learning that the FRB dramatically altered its signal twice while they were analyzing it.

The only possible explanation, according to the researchers, is that a “turbulent” force must have inverted or distorted the magnetic fields around it.

Unraveling The Truth

They postulate that the signal must have gone through “the dense and variable stellar wind of a companion star” reasonably close to its source in order to have formed something “as messy as a ball of wool.”

Because certain FRBs appear to be singular occurrences, a cataclysmic explosion like an extreme supernova was once considered a potential explanation.

However, fewer than 5% of the hundreds observed have been shown to repeat, occasionally in a predictable pattern. The first continuously active repeating FRB to be found was FRB 20190520B.

Researchers from West Virginia University and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) used the Parkes and Green Bank telescopes in Australia and the US to analyze it as the subject of the new study.

The researchers claimed in their study that they had found “turbulent magnetic fields surrounding the repeating FRB.”

The researchers continued, “This observation suggests that the pulses of radio wave emission may originate from a compact object accompanied by a binary companion with strong stellar winds.” 

A black hole or neutron star, which had both been discovered in binary systems with companions that had powerful stellar winds, may be the source, according to the researchers. One such instance is the radio nebula W50-associated star SS433, which resembles a supernova.

They concluded that more research is required because neither explanation quite matches the evidence after carefully examining all of it.

To advance their understanding of the precise origin of these signals, Dr. Li Di and his team at the NAOC are now interested in learning more about the magnetized environment that surrounds FRBs.

FRBs, also known as “brief and mysterious beacons,” have been observed in many far-off regions of the cosmos in addition to our own galaxy. Their appearance is unpredictable, and neither their origins nor their history are known. 

It is clear from prior observations that repeaters and one-offs originate from different mechanisms and cosmic sources. Any interstellar gas or plasma in the path of a radio wave’s journey through space has the potential to alter the wave’s characteristics and trajectory.

The amount of gas a radio wave has passed through and potentially the distance it has traveled from its source can be inferred from how widely distributed the wave is.

Astronomers claim that because the majority of the bursts only flare once and are never observed again, it is impossible to forecast them.

While some exhibit repeat behavior, it was previously believed that this was purely random.

The existence of a predictable pattern in the burst activity may indicate that the strong bursts are related to massive cosmic phenomena. A powerful star’s orbit, a neutron star in a binary system, or a black hole are examples of these.

The journal of Science has published the results of the latest investigation.