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Fast radio burst: Studies reveal details of origin

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More than 15 years after fast radio bursts were discovered, new research has unraveled and deepened the mystery of the origin of these deep space phenomena.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are bright, intensely emitting radio waves ranging from a millionth of a second to a few milliseconds, each producing energy equivalent to the sun’s annual output.

Recent research suggests that some FRBs originate from magnets, which are neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields. Found a bunch of fast radios in the Milky Way linked to a magnetic field, according to a 2020 study.

But scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact origin of the cosmic FRBs, which are billions of light-years away. Follow research published September 21 in the journal Nature.

An illustration depicting a fast radio burst (not the one detailed in the new studies).

The emission associated with FRB 20201124A occurred over 82 hours over 54 days in spring 2021, making it one of the best known fast radio bursts. It is seen through the world’s largest radio telescope – the China-based 5 Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, or FAST.

During the first 36 days, the team was surprised to see short, irregular variations in the Faraday rotation measure, which measures the strength of the magnetic field and the density of particles in the surroundings of the FRB. 20201124A. Bing Zhang, co-author of the study and astrophysicist, said the magnetic field near the source of the radio burst would be stronger, denser, or both, and a smaller measure would mean the opposite, Bing Zhang, co-author of the study and astrophysicist, said by email.

“This does not reflect the beginnings of the FRB (life expectancy). “The FRB source has been around for a long time, but it’s mostly inactive. It wakes up from time to time (54 days this time) and makes a lot of bangs.”

Measurements rise and fall over that period, then stop over the past 18 days before the FRB fades – “showing the magnetic field strength and/or density along the line of sight in the vicinity of the FRB source changing change over time,” added Zhang. “It shows that the environment of the FRB source is evolving dynamically, with rapidly changing magnetic fields or density, or both.”

“I equate it with filming a film of the surroundings of an FRB source, and our film revealed a complex, dynamically evolving, magnetized environment that has never been seen before,” says Zhang. previously imagined”.

One physical model which another team of researchers made based on observations of FRB 20201124A suggests that the FRB comes from a binary system about 8,480 light-years away containing a magnet and a star Be, a hotter star. and is larger and faster than the sun, according to a separate study published September 21 in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers found that the radio burst’s complex, magnetized environment is about one astronomical unit (the distance between Earth and the Sun) from its source.

They also discovered that the explosion originated in a barred, metal-rich spiral galaxy similar in size to the Milky Way, using the 10-meter Keck telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The source of the radio burst lies between the spiral arms of the galaxy, where no significant star formation has taken place, so it’s less likely that the source was just a magnetic field, said study co-author Subo Dong. Researcher Nature, associate professor at the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. at Peking University.

“Such an environment is not explicitly expected for an isolated magnetic field,” Zhang said in a press release. “Something else could be near the FRB engine, maybe a binary companion.”

The modeling study will encourage further searches for fast radio burst signals from the Be star/X-ray binaries, the authors say.

“These observations bring us back to the drawing board,” says Zhang. “Clearly FRBs are more mysterious than we had imagined. More multi-wavelength observation campaigns are needed to further explore the nature of these objects.”

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