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Scientists Have Finally Found the Reason Behind Mysterious Radio Bursts

A discovery, published last week has created ripples among astrophysicists.

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Updated:July 5, 2019, 4:58 PM IST
Scientists Have Finally Found the Reason Behind Mysterious Radio Bursts
A discovery, published last week has created ripples among astrophysicists.

Ever since being detected by the Parkes radio telescope in Australia in 2007, fast-radio bursts or FRBs have intrigued scientists around the globe. Notably, these electromagnetic pulses are as extremely rare and equally spectacular, releasing as much energy in a millisecond as our Sun does in eighty years.

According to news published in The Wire, although FRBs occur almost every minute, most radio telescopes miss the phenomenon because of their relatively narrow fields of view.

Now, a discovery, published last week has created ripples among astrophysicists. Turns out, a beam of radio waves – christened FRB 180924 – detected in 2018 has been tracked back to its home galaxy about four billion light-years away from Earth.

The FRB was once detected before in 2017, when the FRB 121102 flashed at certain intervals like an alarm. In contrast, FRB 180924, which was tracked down in 2018, was not a ‘repeater’ and astronomers slotted it in a catalogue of ‘one-off’ FRBs.

On September 2018, FRB 180924 flared up in space for barely a thousandth of a second, while, thanks to luck, all 36 antennaes of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder were pointed in the same direction where the radio pulse had come from.

Excited astronomers pooled data from these telescopes with that of other instruments from around the world and were able to locate The FRB's origin.

The flash apparently came from a galaxy some four billion light years away from Earth, and it appeared to originate 13,000 light years from the galactic centre, far from any black holes.

Interestingly, some scientists now believe that the FRB's source detection strengthens the 'ET phoning home' theory.

According to astrophysicists Manasvi Lingam of Harvard University and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it could be extra-terrestrial civilisations using these beams to power large light-sails, which use lasers and microwaves as spacecraft ‘engines’.

Whatever, might have triggered the FRB 180924, astrophysicists believe that the ability to determine its location will help astronomers trace more of these enigmatic energy pulses to their points of origin.

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