Astronomers Detect Mystery Radio Burst in Our Own Galaxy
For the first time, astronomers have picked up a fast radio burst within the confines of the Milky Way.
Fast radio bursts, which last mere milliseconds yet generate as much energy as the Sun does in an entire day, have remained something of an enigma since their discovery back in 2007.
Previous examples of these enigmatic phenomena have all been detected in distant parts of the universe, but now astronomers using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope have found the first example originating from within our own galaxy.
Not only that, but they believe that they may have actually identified its source.
The key lay in the detection of a series of gamma-ray bursts by an independent observatory that appeared to be coming from the same place as the newly detected fast radio burst.
The point of origin – a type of neutron star known as a magnetar due to its very strong magnetic field – is situated 30,000 light years away and is known to produce periodic bursts of gamma rays.
The only problem is, nobody has ever observed fast radio bursts coming from objects like this before and it remains unclear exactly what mechanism could be responsible for producing them.
One possibility is that it could be due to what are known as starquakes – which occur when the intense gravity and magnetic field of the star build up tension that is suddenly released.
As things stand however, it is unclear if this is what produced the fast radio burst in this case.
Image Credit: ESO / L. Calcada