Recurring radio signals heard from space after 16 days

Katie Ramirez
February 15, 2020

This burst was linked back to a small dwarf galaxy containing stars and metal. Then, it would go silent for another 12 days. FRB 180916 was traced to one of the spiral arms of a Milky Way-esque galaxy.

Previously scientists have found that repeat burst times can vary from milliseconds to many days, and appear sporadically and clustered, without a regular pattern. They do not know what all the data quite means at this time, however, the material they have gathered has been uploaded to pre-print server arXiv, where it is awaiting scrutiny from other experts.

The Independent reports that although these aren't the first fast radio bursts scientists have observed, they may well be the most unusual thanks to the regular and predictable pattern in which they occur.

In their paper, which is moderated but not full peer-reviewed, scientists explain that FRB 180916.J0158+65 seems to have a 16-day pattern.

Last year, the collaboration detected eight new repeating signal sources, including this one. "The discovery of a 16.35-day periodicity in a repeating FRB source is an important clue to the nature of this object".

Researchers are tracing the origin of these mysterious bursts but so far, they have traced myriad sources every burst. It was also within a star-forming region of the arm, the researchers said.

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While researchers aren't sure exactly what's causing it, they have narrowed the signal down to likely be emanating from the edge of a huge spiral galaxy around 500 million light years away.

The origin of FRBs hasn't been established yet, although the dominant theories regarding them suggest the signals are produced by rapidly rotating bodies such as neutron stars or black holes.

The diameters of a neutron star are the size of a city, for example, Chicago or Atlanta. The interaction between these two, and the wind coming off of the OB-type star, could factor into the cause of the repeating FRB's pattern.

The powerful, high energy bursts are some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astronomy.

The researchers believe that future observations could help them determine if other repeating fast radio bursts have a pattern.

"We conclude that this is the first detected periodicity of any kind in an FRB source", the study's authors said.

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