Researchers say they’ve spotted a new, unusual radio signal from afar galaxy.
The signal is denoted as a quick radio burst, or FRB. These signals are impulses of radio waves, which scientists say may be coming from locations within our own Milky Way or others.
The first FRB was discovered in 2007. Since then, hundreds of signals have been observed from large telescopes in different parts of the world.
Astronomers are unsure what causes FRBs. But they theorized that the signals could be generated by neutron stars. A neutron star is believed to form after the gravitational collapse of a larger star that explodes at the end of its life.
The researchers reporting the latest FRB say it’s unusual because the signal lasted much longer than others observed. Most FRBs only last a few milliseconds. But the new signal lasted up to three seconds — about 1,000 times longer — the team explained in an opinion.
The new FRB was first observed in December 2019 by a radio telescope called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME. The telescope is located near the southwest Canadian town of Kaleden. Several Canadian and American universities support the project.
CHIME was designed to observe radio waves given off by hydrogen gas in distant galaxies. But the telescope’s operators say it’s also good at picking up signals from FRBs.
Scientists believe the signal came from a galaxy billions of light-years from Earth. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year, about nine trillion kilometers.
The researchers said the newly observed FRB is also unusual because it appeared to repeat itself over and over again sample, “resembling a beating heart.” Most FRBs observed in the past generally lasted a few milliseconds before disappearing.
Daniele Michilli and a postdoc candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He helped direct research for the university’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. He says there aren’t many things in the universe that emit the kind of “periodic signals” observed by the telescope.
This led the team to believe that the unusual FRB could have come from two types of neutron star, a pulsar or a magnetar. A pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star. A magnetar is a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field. “We think this new signal could be a magnetar or a pulsar steroidssaid Michilli.
Her Conclusion where the signal came from was based on data collected on pulsars and magnetars observed in our own galaxy. However, the team written down that the unusual FRB appears to be more than a million times brighter than those observed in the Milky Way. Scientists aren’t sure why the FRB should be so much brighter.
The astronomers said the new signal is the longest-lived and has the clearest periodic pattern of any previously observed FRBs. They hope to capture additional observations of the signal. This could help them better understand where it comes from and learn more about the general nature of neutron stars.
“This recognition raises the question of what could be causing this extreme signal, which we have never seen before, and how we can use this signal to study the universe,” Michilli said. “Future telescopes promise to discover thousands of FRBs every month , and at that point we could find many more of these periodic signals.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English based on reports from MIT News, Nature
words in this story
galaxy – n. a very large group of stars held together in the universe
pulse – n. a brief increase in an amount of electricity, light, or sound
sample – n. a regular and repeated way in which something happens
Conclusion – n. a reasoned judgement
steroids – n. a drug used to treat injuries that some athletes use illegally to improve their performance in sports
recognize – c. discover or notice something
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