Something deep in space has been sending signals to earth in 16-day cycles.
For the first time, a new study has allowed scientists to detect the frequency of these signals – known as fast radio bursts (FRBs).
Scientists have discovered that mysterious signals coming from another galaxy are actually occurring in 16-day cycles. FRBs have been puzzling researchers for over a decade.
The source of the FRBs lies in a galaxy 500 million light-years away from Earth. Now for the first time scientists have been able to identify that the signals pulse on an exact 16-day cycle. Yet the nature of the mysterious radio source still remains unknown.
FRBs were first spotted in 2007, and have since become one of the most fascinating puzzles of the universe. The signals are powerful radio bursts produced by unknown energetic sources. FRBs can also appear as one-offs, which are visible only once in a certain part of the sky, or “repeaters” which emit numerous flashes to Earth.
Until last year the bursts seemed entirely random. Then for the first time, a Canadian group dedicated to observing the phenomenon discovered that a signal known as FRB 180916.J0158+65 was happening at regular intervals.
Scientists have since tracked down the FRB to a galaxy called SDSS J015800.28+654253.0, 500 million light-years away. Coincidentally, this FRB is actually the closest that’s ever been detected.
The possibilities of the nature of the FRB are numerous. The source could be orbiting an object, such as a black hole, which would explain why it only flashes towards Earth at a certain orbital position. It could also be a binary system containing a massive star and super-dense stellar core called a neutron star, where signals from the latter are eclipsed by the winds from its enormous companion. Another possible source could be flares from highly magnetized neutron stars (magnetars).
Whilst the nature of FRBs still remain unknown, this latest discover provides a significant clue into the phenomenon which has mystified scientists for over a decade.