Repeating flash in space: A signal? or something we don’t understand yet?

Space Science
FRB Fast Radio Bursts

This artist’s impression represents the path of the fast radio burst FRB 181112 traveling from a distant host galaxy to reach the Earth. FRB 181112 was pinpointed by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. Follow-up observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) revealed that the radio pulses have passed through the halo of a massive galaxy on their way toward Earth. This finding allowed astronomers to analyse the radio signal for clues about the nature of the halo gas. (ESO/M. Kornmesser / Wikimedia Commons)

MYSTERY WIRE — Fast Radio Bursts — FRBs — are an unpredictable phenomenon of radio energy generated in a flash.

That’s what makes one new FRB discovery interesting — it’s predictable. While most FRBs only spark once, this one repeats on a 16-day cycle:

Every 16.35 days, the signal named FRB 180916.J0158+65 follows a similar pattern. For four days, it will spit out a burst or two every hour. Then it falls silent for 12 days. Then the whole thing repeats.

Feb. 10 article from Science Alert

READ: Powerful radio signal from deep space appears to be repeating in a 16-day cycle

The article details the growing list of repeating FRBs that astromers know about — now up to 11, including FRB 180916.J0158+65.

Fast Radio Bursts

FRBs were only discovered in the past 20 years. Examination of data collected by Australia’s Parkes radio telescope revealed a tremendous burst of energy in a very short time. The bursts last only microseconds, but they release as much energy as the sun radiates in a day.

One radio telescope, in particular, is good at picking up these flashes. The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in British Columbia, Canada, is known “the world’s best FRB-finding machine.”

The FRB discovery is reminiscent of the discovery of pulsars, a phenomenon that created tremendous excitement among astronomers because of the possibility that they were signals emitted by intelligent extraterrestrial beings. Turns out pulsars are neutron stars — stars that collapsed following a supernova.

Our report in early January came before scientists had determined that FRB 180916.J0158+65 was among the bursts that repeat.

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