New mystery about fast radio blasts

Fast radio bursts are very mysterious astronomical phenomena. Whenever researchers think they have achieved their goal and finally understand the secrets of their origins, a new observation comes to question everything. This is once again the case today.

The first fast radio blast – a Fast radio blast or FRB, as English speakers call them – was observed in 2007. A powerful cosmic explosion that, in a few milliseconds, hurls the equivalent of the energy produced by our Sun into space in a whole year. Astronomers have therefore been investigating for fifteen years to understand the origins and physical mechanisms behind this extraordinary phenomenon. Fifteen years that their hypotheses are constantly challenged by new observations.

Do fast radio bursts indicate the existence of surprising magnetic stars?

Once again today. With some remarks built in late spring 2021. In 82 hours over 54 days, the spherical radio telescope with an aperture of five hundred meters (Rapid) installed in China has therefore recorded approximately 1,863 bursts from a source called FRB 20201124 A. “The largest sample of FRB data to date, with bias information from a single source”says Kejia Lee, researcher at Peking University, in a statement from the university of nevada (United States).

Recall that recent observations of a fast radio explosion in our Milky Way suggest that the source of the phenomenon is to be found in the magnetars. Understand neutron stars accompanied by an incredibly intense magnetic field. However, the origin of the more distant FRBs remains enigmatic. “And these observations bring us back to square one. It is clear that FRBs are more mysterious than we imagined. Further multi-wavelength observation campaigns will be needed to further reveal the nature of these objects. “comments Bing Zhang, an astrophysicist at the University of Nevada.

A complex and dynamic environment

Astronomers have indeed noticed irregular and short-lived variations in the magnetic field and the density of the evolving particles near FRB 20201124 A. Variations that increased and then decreased during the first 36 days of observation. Variations that then stopped abruptly before the source was finally extinguished 18 days later.

“Our work revealed a complex and dynamic magnetized environment that had never been imagined before for a fast radio blast. Such an environment is not directly intended for an isolated magnetar. Something else could be close to the engine of this FRB. Maybe a comrade who signs the existence of a binary system “explains Bing Zhang.

Another surprise is that FRB 20201124A appears to be located in a region of a metal-rich barred spiral galaxy – just like our own Milky Way – where no significant star-forming activity has so far been recorded. This position is also not very compatible with the idea of ​​a magnetar type source. Which, therefore, definitely relaunches the mystery of fast radio explosions and their sources in galaxies far from ours.

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