Since their discovery back in 2007, FRBs, short for fast radio bursts, captured the scientific community’s attention. Researchers are now studying these emissions in an effort to identify their point of origin and better understand what they stand for.
FRB 121102 was first picked up by a team of astronomers in Puerto Rico using the Arecibo Observatory in November 2012. Since then, the fast radio burst appeared on the researchers’ radar ten times. The second sighting occurred only two years after FRB 121102’s discovery, in 2014 and was caught flashing again nine times over the course of 2016 by New Mexico-based scientists who were using the Very Large Array telescope.
Scientists estimate that the raw output of a single fast radio burst equals the energy a single sun radiates in 10,000 years. However, these flickers of light last for only a fraction of a second. Because of this, the fast radio bursts are also extremely hard to observe. Moreover, there is no telling when such an event is going to occur and due to its short-lived period scientists have no time to alert other telescopes to turn their eyes towards the source. Hence, the telescope must be looking directly at the region where the fast radio burst appears in order to catch it.
However, a study published earlier in 2016 claims researchers have identified the source of one of the most popular fast radio burst, namely the FRB 121102. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, the flicker of light comes from a dwarf galaxy, three billion light-years away from Earth. So far, astronomers have recorded eighteen fast radio bursts. Researchers estimate that one of these bursts occur about once in every ten seconds somewhere in the sky.
Shriharsh Tendulkar, the study co-author said that researchers believed FRBs originated from within or near Milky Way galaxy before scientists could determine the distances these emissions travel. Today, given the recurrence and origin of the FRB 121102, astronomers assume the intense flashes are caused by a spinning neutron star. However, the researchers say they are going to need more data in order to better understand the source of the FRB 121102. For this purpose, astronomers are now studying the fast radio burst with optical, gamma-ray and X-ray, and radio telescopes to search for more clues.
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