Mystery space signal ‘repeating every 16 days’ for nearly two years leaves scientists baffled
MYSTERIOUS signals have been coming from space for over 500 days and scientists aren’t sure why.
The repeating radio waves coming from one point in the sky have presented more questions than answers.
The signals are said to build up and then down again over a period of 16 days.
They were first picked up by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope in Canada.
Despite the relative consistency we still don’t know their source.
Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are a space phenomenon that have baffled astronomers for years.
Artist impression of the pulse from a massive neutron star[/caption]
It’s thought that they come from huge explosions happening in deep space that fade away in less than a second.
The FRB that has been repeating for the past 500 days is called 180916.J0158+65.
Some scientists think the source of the repeating signal is 500 million light years in an area of active star formation.
A study examining these signals concluded that they could be coming from a rotating object or a source that amplifies signals on a repeating pattern.
The chances that it is just a random event has now been deemed slim.
The 16 day cycle of the radio bursts is said to have four noisy days and then 12 days of silence.
Kiyoshi Masui, an MIT assistant professor of physics, said: “This FRB we’re reporting now is like clockwork.
“It’s the most definitive pattern we’ve seen from one of these sources.
“And it’s a big clue that we can use to start hunting down the physics of what’s causing these bright flashes, which nobody really understands.”
One theory is that the radio wave eruptions could come from neutron stars, wobbling as they rotate.
Another theory links FRBs to neutron stars orbiting each other or a blackhole and passing material between them.
Alternatively, some think a radio wave emitting source could be orbiting through a dense gas cloud that periodically dims its signals.
Masui said: “Maybe the source is always giving off these bursts, but we only see them when it’s going through these clouds, because the clouds act as a lens.”
In April, a signal that could have been an FRB was spotted coming from a magnetic star 30,000 light years from our planet.
If this observation is confirmed then it would be the first FRB spotted in our galaxy.
It would also link magnetars to the FRB mystery and maybe take us a step further in understanding what’s going on.
This study has been published published in the journal Nature.
What are FRBs, and why are they important?
Here’s what you need to know…
- FRBs, or fast radio bursts, are a mysterious space phenomenon
- They’re very quick radio bursts that last just a few milliseconds (or thousandths of seconds)
- They’re detected as huge spikes of energy that change in strength over time
- The first one was discovered back in 2007, found by looking back through space survey data
- Lots of FRBs have been found since then
- There’s also one FRB source that is sending out repeated bursts – and no one is quite sure why
- In fact, scientists have struggled to explain exactly what causes any FRB in the first place
- Theories include rapidly rotating neutron stars, black holes, and even alien life
- FRBs are important simply because they’re so baffling to experts
- Unlocking the secrets of what causes them will give us a much better understanding of what goes on beyond our galaxy
- And if it does turn out that some other life-form is causing these FRBs, it would be a world-changing discovery
Most read in Science
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