By Savananh Smith  |  01-05-2017   News
Photo credit: The Goldwater

Since its discovery in 2007, scientists have been grappling for the plausible source of a mysterious signal that appeared to be coming somewhere " from deep in the universe", which they have called Fast Radio Bursts

( FRBs). The FRBs have been heard 18 times, and since then experts could only speculate where they could be coming from. The possibilities floated were that the mind-boggling signal could be from a huge star, jets of material shooting out of a black hole- or even aliens.

FRBs are very short radio waves which last no longer than a millisecond, but they are powerful. The first FRB was discovered by Australia's Parkes telescope in 2007, and from then 17 more have been heard. One of them has been heard several times. And that repeated burst became the subject of scientists' close study and scrutiny for six months. Scientists devoted time and effort locating the signal's precise position in the sky. And the finding has been that it appears to be coming from a faint dwarf galaxy more than 3 billion light years away.

It has been referred to as FRB 121102 and was found using the Very Large Array, a multi-antenna radio telescope operated by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Because of the new discovery, the previous possibility being explored that the origins could be coming from within or near the Milky Way galaxy has been ruled out.

The new findings of scientists appear in the journals Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters. The findings also say that making the FRBs even more mysterious was the discovery that they appeared to be accompanied by a stream of ongoing, persistent though weaker radio emissions. Highly precise observations also showed that the two emission sources could not be more than 100 light years apart.

Dr. Benito Marcote from the Joint Institute for VLBI ( Very Long Baseline Interferometry) in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands said the bursts and the continuous source are likely to be either the same object or that they are somehow physically associated with each other.

While more light has been shed on the origin, what produced the FRB, however, remains a mystery. One possibility is a super-dense neutron star- possibly a

"magnetar", a neutron star with a very powerful magnetic field surrounded by debris from a stellar explosion. Another probability is that the source could be jets of material shooting out from the rim of a supermassive black hole.

The journal's co-author Dr. Shami Chatterjee from Cornell University hails the discovery of the host galaxy of the FRBs and its distance as a big step forward, while admitting that it's still a long way before we can fully understand what these things are.

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