Mysterious cosmic radio bursts detected in real time for the first time ever

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Fast radio bursts are rapid, bright sparks of radio waves initiating from an unidentified source in cosmos. They is a mysterious occurrence that happens only for a few milliseconds, and they had never been detected live – until a group of astronomers, by means of CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in eastern Australia succeeded to change that.  Even still the bursts were over nearly as soon as they arose, the group of astronomers, directed by Emily Petroff of CSIRO and Swinburne University of Technology, achieved to spot it occurring in real time. Merely seven fast radio bursts had formerly been detected– astonishingly, some were only spotted a decade after they actually happened.  Petroff’s group credited their achievement to the progress of new instrumentation, which reduced the time between observation and discovery of fast radio bursts from many years to seconds.
A schematic representation of CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope getting the polarized signal from the new ‘fast radio burst’. [Image Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions]

Fast radio bursts are “one of the major mysteries in the cosmos”, states Carnegie Observatories’ Acting Director John Mulchaey. Although the cause of these fast radio bursts is still unknown. Whatsoever produced them was at least 5.5 billion light years away, meaning it “might have given off as much energy in a few milliseconds as the Sun produces in a day”, according to Dr. Daniele Malesani of the University of Copenhagen. Such a huge quantity of energy proposes a cataclysmic occurrence, for instance the collapse of an extraordinarily fast rotating, gigantic neutron star as it collapses into producing a black hole.

Even though nothing new was learned this time, a clarification of their source is only a matter of time. Astronomers were however left a hint to its origins. The radio waves had a distinctive polarization – the route in which electromagnetic waves oscillate – signifying that there was a magnetic field in the neighborhood of their source.

Petroff, whose results were issued by the Royal AstronomicalSociety, says “We’ve set the trap. Now we just have to wait for another burst to fall into it."

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