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Mysterious Cosmic Radio Bursts Just Got Even More Interesting

Fast radio bursts (FRBs), are a cradle of limitless fascination. But regardless of a decade of observations, not all astronomers are certain that they’re even real. A research issued in Nature yesterday, which says the very first frequent FRB, may cause lingering skepticism to evaporate. Peter Williams, an astronomer at Harvard’s Center told Gizmodo “I think this is pretty huge. For a while, I wasn’t sure these things were genuinely astrophysical. This paper settles the question.”

The repeating burst stated in Nature, FRB 121102, was spotted by an international team of astronomers by means of the most sensitive radio telescope on the planet, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Not only is 121102 the first instance of a repeated FRB, it’s the first FRB spotted with anything other than the Parkes Observatory in Australia. (Currently there are 16 other published FRBs to date.)

Jason Hessels, an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and co-author on the new study, told Gizmodo “Parkes has wide field of view but low sensitivity. Arecibo has small field of view, but once you find something, you can dig much more deeply.”

Hessels and his coworkers detected FRB 121102 in 2012 during a survey of pulsars, rapidly-rotating stellar leftovers that release beams of radio energy. Hessels said “Conventional wisdom was that this source wasn’t going to repeat. But we decided to spend some time confirming that.”

Read more about this at Gizmodo.

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