Strange flashes of light have astronomers’ attention

Space Science
Fast Radio Bursts

(Image: © NRAO Outreach/T. Jarrett (IPAC/Caltech); B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

MYSTERY WIRE — Blink and you’ll miss it.

Flashes of light in the night sky described by as “ultra-fast pinpricks of radio energy” are a puzzle to scientists. A “fast radio burst” is something astronomers only learned about in 2007, and the research since then hasn’t cleared up exactly why they happen and where they are coming from.

An animation shows the random appearance of fast radio bursts (FRBs) across the sky.
(Image: © NRAO Outreach/T. Jarrett (IPAC/Caltech); B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

So far, it seems that different sets of circumstances can produce them. Initial thinking that they originated in galaxies that were forming a lot of stars seemed to be a theory that fit. But the more we see, the less likely it seems there is a single set of conditions that produces the flashes.

And they are enormously powerful.

In a few thousandths of a second, these explosions produce as much energy as the sun does in nearly a century.

Origin of Deep-Space Radio Flash Discovered, and It’s Unlike Anything Astronomers Have Ever Seen” —

A radio telescope in British Columbia, Canada, is known “the world’s best FRB-finding machine,” according to a speaker at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting on Monday in Honolulu. Kenzie Nimmo, a doctoral student at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told that a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away is producing a “repeating” FRB. A nebula could be the source.

A 2017 article on Live Science speculated that alien civilizations could be the source of the FRBs.

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