Astronomers Discovered 157 Day Cycle in Fast Radio Bursts

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An observation into one of the recent mysteries of astronomy has been successfully performed thanks to a four-year observing program. 

Utilizing the long-term tracking skills of the Lovell Telescope, an international team of astronomers has been examining a space object dubbed Fast Radio Burst (FRB). Here is what you need to know.

FRB’s New Features Analyzed

An international team of astronomers led by Jodrell Bank Observatory utilized 32 FRBs found during the four-year program, combined with data from other observations. They discovered that emission from the FRBs called 121102 has a cyclic pattern, with radio bursts spotted in a window of almost 90 days. Then, a silent period of 67 days followed. The same performance repeated every 157 days. 

This finding offers a significant hint to discovering the source of these mysterious FRBs. The presence of a constant sequence in the burst activity could reveal a lot of things. For example, it could show that the powerful bursts are related to the orbital motion of a giant star, a black hole, or a neutron star. 

“Detecting a periodicity provides an important constraint on the origin of the bursts, and the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star,” explained Dr. Kaustubh Rajwade of The University of Manchester. 

Repeating fast radio bursts could be explained by the precession, similar to a wobbling top, of the magnetic axis of a hugely magnetized neutron star. However, with recent data, astronomers think it might be challenging to explain a 157-day precession period given the immense magnetic fields anticipated in these stars. 

The existence of fast radio bursts was only detected as recently as 2017, and they were first believed to be one-off events of an exploding star. When the FRB 121102 was discovered using the Arecibo radio telescope on November 2, 2012, astronomers were intrigued. The FRB’s event repeated in 2016, too. Bit, until now, no one recognized that these FRBs were organized in a regular pattern. 

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