First fast radio burst detected in Milky Way

Astronomers using both space- and ground-based telescopes have detected for the first time a fast radio burst occurring inside the Milky Way, finding that it came from a magnetar, a pulsar with an extremely powerful magnetic field.

The radio component was discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope located at Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia and led by McGill University in Montreal, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto.

A NASA-funded project called Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) also detected the radio burst seen by CHIME. Consisting of a trio of detectors in California and Utah and operated by Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, STARE 2 is led by Bochenek, Shri Kulkarni at Caltech, and Konstantin Belov at JPL. They determined the burst’s energy was comparable to FRBs.

By the time these bursts occurred, astronomers had already been monitoring their source for more than half a day.

Late on April 27, NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory spotted a new round of activity from a magnetar called SGR 1935+2154 (SGR 1935 for short) located in the constellation Vulpecula. It was the object’s most prolific flare-up yet – a storm of rapid-fire X-ray bursts, each lasting less than a second. The storm, which raged for hours, was picked up at various times by Swift, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), an X-ray telescope mounted on the International Space Station.

Later observations detected X-rays from the same source. While this does not prove that all fast radio bursts come from magnetars, it does prove that at least some do.

A fast radio burst that beats every sixteen days

Astronomers have now added to the mystery of fast radio bursts (FRBs), of which about a hundred are known, by discovering one in a nearby galaxy that has a regular outburst every 16.35 days.

Earlier this year CHIME worked with astronomers in Europe to pinpoint the origin of a particular FRB emission — called FRB 180916.J0158+65 — to a galaxy located 500 million light years from Earth.

Now CHIME has determined that FRB 180916 pulses at predictable intervals more than two weeks apart. “It tells us that the origin of at least some FRBs is astrophysically regular in nature, but on long enough time scales that they may be tied to something different than a rotating, compact object — perhaps something like an orbiting system,” said Newburgh, whose lab builds instrumentation for collecting data about the history of the cosmos

Or to put it another way, they really haven’t any idea yet what exactly causes these bursts. The new data however will help formulate better theories, that I guarantee will be contradicted by subsequent new data. At the moment there is so little known about FRBs that any theory must be looked at with great skepticism.

New radio telescope discovers many new Fast Radio Bursts

A new radio telescope in Canada, designed to detect the mysterious and as-yet unexplained Fast Radio Bursts (FRB), has in the past year raised the total of known FRBs from 30 to 700, including nine repeating bursts.

This confirms an earlier very preliminary analysis that there were two different types of bursts, those that repeat and those that don’t.

Warning: It is very dangerous to take these results too seriously. A lot of uncertainty exists, including some basic facts about the bursts.

Astronomers identify for the first time the source of a fast radio burst

For the first time astronomers have pinned down the location of a fast radio burst (FRBs), short bursts lasting only seconds that were only discovered about a decade ago.

A dim dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light years from Earth is sending out the mysterious millisecond-long blasts of radio waves, researchers report Wednesday in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters. The bursts traverse vast expanses of time and intergalactic space before reaching our planet. “This really is the first ironclad association of a fast radio burst with another astronomical source, so it’s a pretty huge result,” said Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at West Virginia University who reported the first detection of a fast radio burst (FRB) in 2007.

The uncertainty of science: Only 18 FRBs have been identified since they were first discovered. Until now, it was unclear whether they occurred in our galaxy or beyond, though it was suspected they were coming from other galaxies. This discovery proves that. What remains unknown is what causes the burst, which signals an energy pulse equivalent to that of 500 million suns.

“I am not exaggerating when I say there are more models for what FRBs could be than there are FRBs,” said Cornell astronomer Shami Chatterjee, the lead author of the new Nature paper. Many scientists think the bursts are emitted by distant neutron stars, the super-dense embers of exploded suns. But some believe they must originate in our own galaxy. Still more suggest that FRBs could be caused by cataclysms like a supernova or a collision of two stars. This last theory was compelling because most FRB detections were one-off events — astronomers never spotted more than one flare from a single source.

Today’s announcement was made possible by the fact that the burst itself is repeating. In fact, it is the only FRB so far known to do so, which also means that what they learn about it might not be applicable to the other bursts.