Source of Cosmic Radio Signal Traced Down

Galaxy

The source of a mysterious radio signal from outer space has finally been tracked down

A peculiar radio signal was intercepted in the outer space and now, after it kept scientists worldwide befuddled for almost ten years, the spot it originated from has been found more than 3 billion light-years away. Specialists identified the place where the first radio burst (FBR) came from – a dwarf galaxy in the pentagon-shaped constellation Auriga.

Researchers thought initially that the radio waves originated from the Milky Way or from a neighboring galaxy. Further studies clarified that it comes from a small galactic system measuring only 1% of the size of our Milky Way.

The radio signals were initially found in 2007 and, starting from that point, researchers tried to track down their starting point. Scientists at McGill University declared that there are 18 known FRBs, but they have been recognized by non-professional telescopes that are not able to pinpoint their source.

Progress of the research was made in 2012, when Cornell researchers identified a flag of the radio signal. The flag, FRB121102, was sporadically rehashing. After carefully watching the sky for many hours, they finally got a glimpse of the flag and were able to follow it to its starting point. After finding the source, they were now able to identify the cause of the signal and find out why it is so unconventional.

Shami Chatterjee, researcher at Cornell University, disclosed the theories on the origin and cause of the radio signal. The source appears to be a magnetar. The magnetar is a young neutron star with a highly attractive field. It is situated among the leftovers of a supernova or inside a pulsar wind cloud. Therefore, it is the magnetar that delivers the radio impulses.

Neutron stars are small and thick cosmic objects. Despite their reduced size, they have twice the mass of the sun. They are born at the supernova blast of a big star. When a star dies, it explodes and releases all its fuel with a blast. This blast caused the birth of the neutron star.

The impulses can be explained by the presence of a gap that absorbs particles at a high speed and radiates pulses of light. These gaps are called active galactic nuclei. The FRB impulses might be generated at the same time with the light beams.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Authors
Top