The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Thursday reported that its observatories helped detect the first fast radio burst (FRB) ever seen from within our Milky Way galaxy. On April 28, it observed a mix of X-ray and radio signals that were never observed before in our galaxy.
This month, the space agency has published three papers reporting the detection of the phenomenon called FRB, published in the journal Nature on November 4.
The first FRB was discovered in 2007 and since then, scientists have been working towards finding the source of their origin. FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves that can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields, whose durations last only a few milliseconds. Because of this, it is difficult to detect them and locate their position in the sky.
🌌 Our @NASAUniverse observatories helped detect the first fast radio burst ever seen from within our Milky Way galaxy. How this unique event helped astronomers better understand the source of these blasts, previously only seen in other galaxies: https://t.co/sHLlsQXwRC pic.twitter.com/QTec4tAlHh— NASA (@NASA) November 4, 2020
According to NASA, its 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 constellation Vulpecula is estimated to be between 14,000-41,000 light-years away.
The radio burst observed by NASA lasted for a thousandth of a second and was thousands of times brighter than any other radio emissions from magnetars seen in the Milky Way galaxy. It is being speculated that the FRB-associated burst was unusually bright because it likely occurred at or close to the magnetar’s magnetic pole.
NASA describes a magnetar as a neutron star that is crushed, city-size remains of a star many times more massive than our Sun. The magnetic field of such a star is extremely powerful, which can be over 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet and up to a thousand times stronger than a typical neutron star’s.