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Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts From Space Observed Live By Scientists

One of the mysteries of the universe that scientists wish to unveil and unravel is that about fast radio bursts (FRBs) and a new discovery might have brought them closer to deciphering their nature and origin.

An unknown entity letting out a fugacious radio wave flash (in the form of fast radio bursts (FRBs)) was perhaps the astronomical event of the month. FRBs which are not fully grasped by scientists were observed by a group of scientists. They are deemed to be extremely powerful: possibly able to release the same amount of energy as our very sun does in an extended duration of time, for around hundreds of thousands of years. However strong FRBs might be though, they last for a brief period of time, albeit for fractions of seconds.

The previous discovered FRBs were only identified weeks and years after they actually happened. Therefore, finding one while it was happening was made the aim of scientists. To achieve their goal, they came up with a strategy to be able to locate these events so that they can record them live. As a consequence, such bursts of energy have been detected live last year, on the 14th of May 2014, by astronomer Emily Petroff and her team via the Parkes radio telescope.

The FRBs were spotted near constellation Aquarius, around 5.5 billion light-years from our planet. Right after the instance of noticing the FRBs, the researchers tuned 12 more telescopes to find the source and to gather further data within different wavelengths (visible light, UV, X-ray). However, no afterglow was seen, implying that the source could not be eventually spotted.

Fortunately, the researchers did make do with the data that they had, or the lack thereof more particularly: having generated no data from certain wavelengths, they were able to eliminate possible sources like gamma-ray bursts and supernovae.

Another finding involved polarisation. The waves were found to be circularly polarised: this means that the waves vibrate in two planes. From this, the scientists concluded that the possibility of there being a magnetic field near the source can be entertained. They also interpreted their results as implying that the event might have been related to an extremely compact object like a neutron star or even a black hole.

The new pool of information might now ease other such observations to understand FRBs better.


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