Space & Astronomy
New clue found in fast radio bursts mystery
By T.K. Randall
January 14, 2018 · 0 comments
What is producing these fast radio bursts ? Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 John Masterson, CSIRO
Scientists suspect that the unexplained bursts could be coming from a very strong magnetic environment.
It's a phenomenon that has managed to defy explanation for years - powerful bursts of radio waves originating from far beyond our own galaxy that, despite lasting mere milliseconds, generate as much energy as the Sun does in an entire day.
To date, the only known repeating source of fast radio bursts is FRB 121102 - a mysterious object situated in a distant dwarf galaxy over three billion light years away.
Now thanks to new observations made by scientists with the Breakthrough Listen initiative, it has been revealed that, unlike most radiating objects in the universe, almost all of the light from FRB 121102 is polarized - meaning that the light waves are oriented in the same direction.
When polarized light passes through a region with a strong magnetic field the polarization becomes 'twisted' by an effect known as 'Faraday rotation'. By analyzing the amount by which the radio bursts from FRB 121102 have become twisted and comparing this to the effects of other known astrophysical phenomena, the scientists are hoping to hone in on what is producing them.
"The only sources in the Milky Way that are twisted as much as FRB121102 are in the galactic center, which is a dynamic region near a massive black hole. Maybe FRB121102 is in a similar environment in its host galaxy," said study co-author Daniele Michilli from the University of Amsterdam.
"However, the twisting of the radio bursts could also be explained if the source is located in a powerful nebula or supernova remnant."
Source: BBC News
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