Cosmic radio bursts point to cataclysmic origins

Jul 04, 2013
CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope, which has been used to confirm a population of Fast Radio Bursts, is shown superimposed on an image showing the distribution of gas in our Galaxy. An artist's impression of a single fast radio burst is shown located well away from the Galactic plane emission. Fast radio bursts are a new population of radio source located at cosmological distances. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Mysterious bursts of radio waves originating from billions of light years away have left the scientists who detected them speculating about their origins.

The international research team, writing in the journal Science, rule out terrestrial sources for the four fast radio bursts and say their brightness and distance suggest they come from cosmological distances when the Universe was just half its current age.

The burst energetics indicate that they originate from an extreme astrophysical event involving relativistic objects such as or .

Study lead Dan Thornton, a PhD student at England's University of Manchester and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said the findings pointed to some extreme events involving large amounts of mass or energy as the source of the radio bursts.

He said: "A single burst of of unknown origin was detected outside our Galaxy about six years ago but no one was certain what it was or even if it was real, so we have spent the last four years searching for more of these explosive, short-duration radio bursts. This paper describes four more bursts, removing any doubt that they are real. The radio bursts last for just a few milliseconds and the furthest one that we detected was 11 billion light years away."

Astonishingly, the findings—taken from a tiny fraction of the sky—also suggest that there should be one of these signals going off every 10 seconds. Max-Planck Institute Director and Manchester professor, Michael Kramer, explained: "The bursts last only a tenth of the blink of an eye. With current telescopes we need to be lucky to look at the right spot at the right time. But if we could view the sky with 'radio eyes' there would be flashes going off all over the sky every day."

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Credit: Swinburne Astronomy

The team, which included researchers from the UK, Germany, Italy, Australia and the US, used the CSIRO Parkes 64metre radio telescope in Australia to obtain their results.

Co-author Professor Matthew Bailes, from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, thinks the origin of these explosive bursts may be from magnetic neutron stars, known as 'magnetars'. He said: "Magnetars can give off more energy in a millisecond than our Sun does in 300,000 years and are a leading candidate for the burst."

The researchers say their results will also provide a way of finding out the properties of space between the Earth and where the bursts occurred. Author Dr Ben Stappers, from Manchester's School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "We are still not sure about what makes up the space between galaxies, so we will be able to use these radio bursts like probes in order to understand more about some of the missing matter in the Universe. We are now starting to use Parkes and other telescopes, like the Lovell Telescope of the University of Manchester, to look for these bursts in real time."

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More information: 'A Population of Fast Radio Bursts at Cosmological Distances,' published in Science on 5 July 2013

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User comments : 17

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cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (29) Jul 04, 2013
Magnetars, a theoretical construct based upon "frozen-in field lines", "magnetic reconnection" and other pseudoscientific goboldigook.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.3 / 5 (18) Jul 04, 2013
Magnetars, so mainstream that they are observed and appear in encyclopedias: "the magnetar hypothesis has become widely accepted ... As of October 2012, 21 magnetars are known, with three more candidates awaiting confirmation."

[ http://en.wikiped...Magnetar ]
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (27) Jul 04, 2013
LOL, epicycles were "encyclopedic" at one point as well, but I guess since it's on wiki it must be true...

http://www.libert...nection/

It does not surprise me one bit you support the pseudoscience of reconnection and frozen in fields.
bluehigh
1.5 / 5 (22) Jul 05, 2013
@cantdrive
Rating system failed for my vote. 5 for you.
Magnetars are simply guesswork, validated by pseudoscience.
@Torbjorn
More likely that if its in Wikipedia then it's a collection of pop science by unqualified ego trippers at best.

Magnetic re-connection! Nonsense.

cantdrive85
1.2 / 5 (20) Jul 05, 2013
@cantdrive
Rating system failed for my vote. 5 for you.
Magnetars are simply guesswork, validated by pseudoscience.
@Torbjorn
More likely that if its in Wikipedia then it's a collection of pop science by unqualified ego trippers at best.

Magnetic re-connection! Nonsense.


No sweat, the single star vote is the default setting on all of my posts. I know I'm on the right track so long as my rating stays low, critical questions get one star, cheerleaders typically get five. I have no desire to be a cheerleader.
GSwift7
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 05, 2013
We are now starting to use Parkes and other telescopes, like the Lovell Telescope of the University of Manchester, to look for these bursts in real time


It may be possible to use the echo of these flashes to refine our distance estimates to far away objects, and perhaps locate large but dim objects closer to us, like brown dwarfs and large kuiper belt or ort cloud objects. It would probably require a dedicated instrument, but it should be possible.
packrat
1.3 / 5 (12) Jul 05, 2013
Or they could be picking up the the left over energy blasts from some space war going on a few light years distance from here.... My explanation is just about as accurate as magnatars is. Neither explanation can be proved one way or another.
yyz
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 05, 2013
One possible explanation for these fast radio transients invokes a rapidly rotating supramassive neutron star (a neutron star slightly above the Chandrasekhar limit) that collapses to a black hole due to magnetic braking over the course of several thousand to million years: http://arxiv.org/abs/1307.1409

The authors propose the name 'blitzar' for the radio-emitting collapsar due to its bright radio flash.
wavettore
1 / 5 (13) Jul 06, 2013
Waves travel gradually releasing heat, or amounts of energy, and their original short wavelengths, in time become longer and longer as they carry less and less energy than they did when they first started to travel. These waves lose energy releasing it in form of other waves with wavelengths longer than their own.

For example, the gamma rays, over time, diminish their energy level (and their frequency) to become X rays, from X rays they will become ultraviolet and so on.

The original quantum is not lost but distributed into other forms of energy through "spontaneous symmetry breaking".

Once reached an almost flat longitude (and lower critical energy level) these waves solidify into subatomic particles of hydrogen atoms breaking up their energy in opposite elements, like the split ends of a broken hair.

When the hydrogen atoms are reached by the heat of other incoming waves they fuse together to create more complex forms of energy.

http://en.wikiver...volution
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jul 06, 2013
Once reached an almost flat longitude (and lower critical energy level) these waves solidify into subatomic particles of hydrogen atoms

Ever heard of energy conservation?
geokstr
1 / 5 (15) Jul 06, 2013
Sources giving off "...more energy in a millisecond than our Sun does in 300,000 years...", lasting only a nanosecond but readily detectable from 5 billion lightyears away are "possibly linked" to "cataclysms".

Really? Ya think?

Is anybody speculating that some soft, fuzzy event could cause this incredible outpouring of energy.

And if these really are going off every 10 seconds at minimum, could these help to explain the "dark energy" problem?

We know that there is such a thing as solar wind causing outward pressure away from the source. Can light and other forms of energy have some sort of tiny but measurable amount of such pressure as well?

Add all that up for all the stars and gamma ray bursts and and quasars and jets and supernovae and other energy producing sources and you've got a lot of outward pressure going everywhere in the universe.
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (13) Jul 06, 2013
From the YouTube interview of Peter Woit titled "Piling Conjecture Upon Conjecture"

"Our fundamental problem with unification is that a certain number of ideas have been tried out which all have well-known problems -- and string theory is now one of them. But there's a lot of things that haven't been tried … If you start to get to know the subject, you realize the number of people working on the subject … It's a fairly limited community. It's a few thousand people … And … most of them are kind of following the lead of a fairly small number of people. The number of actual different ideas that people are trying out is actually quite small … There's a much larger array of ideas out there which nobody has taken the time to look into because the way the field works … The way the field is structured, it's kind of very very hard to do that kind of work, because it's likely to damage your career. If you're trying to do it when you're young, you're gonna very well end up not having a job."
Tuxford
1.5 / 5 (13) Jul 06, 2013
One possible explanation for these fast radio transients invokes a rapidly rotating supramassive neutron star ...


Given the extreme distances, perhaps a somehow highly-collimated radio burst originating from some unknown physical mechanism? Perhaps a rotating source is precessing as well, almost never to point precisely in this direction again? Or perhaps the initial stage of a somewhat wide-angle blazar polar jet forming whose power is quickly attenuated by the intervening relativistic ejected gas therefrom, such that the jet settles directed in slight off-alignment with the Earth. Just speculation, much the same as others here.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (6) Jul 06, 2013
Just speculation, much the same as others here.


Since all we know is "they exist", that's all you can get at this stage. Once proper searches are conducted and the characteristics of the signals are measured, then the guesses can start to be "educated".
Neinsense99
2.8 / 5 (18) Jul 06, 2013
@cantdrive
Rating system failed for my vote. 5 for you.
Magnetars are simply guesswork, validated by pseudoscience.
@Torbjorn
More likely that if its in Wikipedia then it's a collection of pop science by unqualified ego trippers at best.

Magnetic re-connection! Nonsense.


No sweat, the single star vote is the default setting on all of my posts. I know I'm on the right track so long as my rating stays low, critical questions get one star, cheerleaders typically get five. I have no desire to be a cheerleader.

For the enlightened, like yourself, the echo from your colon is all the feedback you need.
eloheim
1 / 5 (7) Jul 08, 2013
"Two new studies suggest that FRBs are as common as dirt, that they produce more energy in a millisecond than the sun does in a million years, and that their single, intense flash of radio waves may be created when a neutron star is severed from its magnetic field as it collapses into a black hole. This explanation has also led to a more evocative name – blitzars – after the German word blitz for lightning." -NewScientist

And on a side note- God are you people stupid. I almost never say anything mean but there it is. Enjoy! ("OMG a new word I've never heard before, spray lead and run for the hills!")
GSwift7
2 / 5 (4) Jul 09, 2013
Since all we know is "they exist", that's all you can get at this stage. Once proper searches are conducted and the characteristics of the signals are measured, then the guesses can start to be "educated".


Yeah, I agree with fleetfoot. You cannot say much about the source at this point. The fact that it is radio frequency tells you something about it, and probably rules out the collapsing black hole theory, since I think the bursts would be gamma rays rather than radio freq. The frequency does rule some sources out, but it still leaves a lot of room for possibilities.

Or they could be picking up the the left over energy blasts from some space war going on a few light years distance from here


Weapons that give off radio bursts? That's stupid! My dreadnaught weapons are undetectable. :P

And on a side note- God are you people stupid.


What, are you a superior species, like a cat or something?