There are many mysteries in both the known and the unknown universe, but one that has recently confounded astronomers is what is known as Fast Radio Bursts (FRB). First recorded in 2007, these short explosions of radio energy were so strong but so short that it was near impossible to determine where they came from. Finally it seems that our stars have aligned and researchers have discovered that these FRBs are actually coming from a dwarf galaxy just outside our Milky Way. And, no, they’re not coming from aliens.
FRBs are so powerful that the energy they produce are supposedly equivalent to 500 million suns. And yet they’re so short and last only milliseconds that “catching” one to determine their origin, let alone their nature, was a task of epic proportions. Complicating matters is that they seemed to be all over the place, which made scientist presume that they were actually happening within our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Thanks to more advanced equipment as well as some still unexplained changes in the behavior of these FRBs, scientists were able to narrow down a certain range of FRBs and trace their origin. And it wasn’t in our backyard, but it was close. The radio bursts were apparently coming from a very faint dwarf galaxy just outside our own, about 3 billion light-years from us.
Knowing where these bursts of energy were coming from is just a first but crucial step in determining why they’re happening in the first place. Knowing that they’re coming from outside the galaxy means scientists can stop looking inwards and drop their current theories, which involved the cataclysmic collision of two neutron stars that would produce a black hole.
Neutron stars, the spinning remnants of a collapsed star, might still be at fault. But that’s just one of many possible models. While this discovery doesn’t exactly tell us what caused the FRBs, the process of discovery and learning often involves ruling out other possible theories as well.
VIA: Science Alert