Latest fast radio burst adds to mystery of their source

May 12, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
DECam VR-band image of the FRB 150215 field. The blue circles represent the Parkes radio telescope beam (7.50', inner, solid line) and extended (15.00', outer, dashed line) positional error. The circles are centered on the pointing of the Parkes beam upon detection of FRB 150215. No transient event was found in the i-band stacked images within the region. Credit: arXiv:1705.02911 [astro-ph.HE]

(Phys.org)—An international team of space researchers has reported on the detection of a new fast radio burst (FRB) and their efforts to trace its source. They have written a paper describing the detection and search for evidence, and have uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server.

FRBs are a relatively new development for space scientists—they are extremely short blasts of strong radio waves that come from space, but scientists have not been able to explain what makes them. In this new detection, the FRB, now named FRB 150215, was first detected by researchers working with the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. What made the detection of FRB 150215 unique was that several teams were prepared to train their telescopes on the FRB origin point shortly after it was detected. Unfortunately, none of them were able to detect anything that might identify its cause, or even exactly where it occurred. exactly. Additionally, after analyzing data from the follow-up telescopes, the researchers found that the FRB had taken an interesting path through the Milky Way to make its way to us—a hole of sorts that, prior to the detection of the FRB, was unknown. Thus, despite learning nothing new about the source of FRBs in general, the team has learned something new about our galaxy.

The detection of FRB 150215 marks the detection of 22 FRBs to date, none of which have identifiable sources, making them one of the great mysteries of space science. Common sense suggests that finding a source should be relatively easy—it would take something pretty big to create such strong pulses of . The mysterious nature of FRBs has led to a host of theories regarding their nature, from supernova to intelligent alien communications. Others suggest the research into finding the source of FRBs has been unsuccessful because scientists are looking at the problem backwards—FRBs, they note, could arise long after the precipitating event. That means it might make more sense to look for noticeable events in the night sky, like supernovas, and then monitor for FRBs sometime later.

In any event, study of FRBs is likely to increase as the mystery deepens and new technology emerges—some have even suggested that it is possible that FRBs are much more common than has been shown, and that once they are observed more regularly, researchers can focus on looking at patterns.

Explore further: Mysterious bursts of energy do come from outer space

More information: A polarized fast radio burst at low Galactic latitude, arXiv:1705.02911 [astro-ph.HE] arxiv.org/abs/1705.02911

Abstract
We report on the discovery of a new fast radio burst, FRB 150215, with the Parkes radio telescope on 2015 February 15. The burst was detected in real time with a dispersion measure (DM) of 1105.6±0.8 pc cm^{-3}, a pulse duration of 2.8^{+1.2}_{-0.5} ms, and a measured peak flux density assuming the burst was at beam center of 0.7^{+0.2}_{-0.1} Jy. The FRB originated at a Galactic longitude and latitude of 24.66^{circ}, 5.28^{circ}, 25 degrees away from the Galactic Center. The burst was found to be 43±5% linearly polarized with a rotation measure (RM) in the range -9 < RM < 12 rad m^{-2} (95% confidence level), consistent with zero. The burst was followed-up with 11 telescopes to search for radio, optical, X-ray, gamma-ray and neutrino emission. Neither transient nor variable emission was found to be associated with the burst and no repeat pulses have been observed in 17.25 hours of observing. The sightline to the burst is close to the Galactic plane and the observed physical properties of FRB 150215 demonstrate the existence of sight lines of anomalously low RM for a given electron column density. The Galactic RM foreground may approach a null value due to magnetic field reversals along the line of sight, a decreased total electron column density from the Milky Way, or some combination of these effects. A lower Galactic DM contribution might explain why this burst was detectable whereas previous searches at low latitude have had lower detection rates than those out of the plane.

Related Stories

Bright radio bursts probe universe's hidden matter

November 17, 2016

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are mysterious flashes of radio waves originating outside our Milky Way galaxy. A team of scientists, jointly led by Caltech postdoctoral scholar Vikram Ravi and Curtin University research fellow ...

Mysterious cosmic radio bursts found to repeat

March 2, 2016

Astronomers for the first time have detected repeating short bursts of radio waves from an enigmatic source that is likely located well beyond the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. The findings indicate that these "fast radio ...

Recommended for you

NASA telescope studies quirky comet 45P

November 22, 2017

When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial ...

Uncovering the origins of galaxies' halos

November 21, 2017

Using the Subaru Telescope atop Maunakea, researchers have identified 11 dwarf galaxies and two star-containing halos in the outer region of a large spiral galaxy 25 million light-years away from Earth. The findings, published ...

Cassini image mosaic: A farewell to Saturn

November 21, 2017

In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series ...

18 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sonhouse
4.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2017
What about the possibility the bursts come from closer in, meaning less energy would have been involved. like a few hunded lightyears instead of thousands or tens of thousands of light years?
rogerdallas
5 / 5 (3) May 12, 2017
@sonhouse FRBs would still be mysterious even if they were closer, although the mystery would be a bit different. I think the distances are estimated on the basis of "dispersion", a difference in arrival times of burst components. Dispersion measures, taken at face value, indicate cosmological distances.
Gigel
not rated yet May 12, 2017
I wonder what happens to a fast rotating pulsar that slows down and has enough mass to turn into a black hole. What does a neutron star supernova look like?
billpress11
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2017
What if the red shifting of all EMR changed the intensity of EMR. Suppose a red shift of 1 doubled the intensity, a red shift of 3 tripled it, etc.? Could this possibly be an explanation for some the unexplained extreme gamma rays and radio ways we observe from the distant universe?
Molecular hydrogen
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2017
https://m.phys.org/news/2016-11-physics-violated-em-leaked-nasa.html
Just saying something could have developed one ... strange how it found a hole through our galaxy
Kedas
5 / 5 (3) May 12, 2017
What about the possibility the bursts come from closer in, meaning less energy would have been involved. like a few hunded lightyears instead of thousands or tens of thousands of light years?

They already confirmed the source distance recently as very far.
Kedas
3 / 5 (4) May 12, 2017
It's just a side effect when transitioning to warp drive, nothing to worry about.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2017
@sonhouse FRBs would still be mysterious even if they were closer, although the mystery would be a bit different. I think the distances are estimated on the basis of "dispersion", a difference in arrival times of burst components. Dispersion measures, taken at face value, indicate cosmological distances.

Can you expand on that dispersion technique? As it goes through space is it the encountering of dust particles? And is that a frequency dispersion or a spreading of the physical wave? How does this dispersion correlate with distance?
AllaBreve
not rated yet May 12, 2017
Speaking from a position of ignorance of the details and the physics, could they be relate to reconnection of galactic magnetic field lines ?
EmceeSquared
not rated yet May 12, 2017
"the researchers found that the FRB had taken an interesting path through the Milky Way to make its way to us—a hole of sorts that, prior to the detection of the FRB, was unknown."

What is this supposed to mean?
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2017
I'm waiting for more data.

One type of FRBs has been identified as emanating from the magnetrons of microwave ovens when the door is opened during a heating cycle, caused by the collapse of the magnetic field around the magnetron. These were called "perytons." Yes, really. Go look it up.
Paton
2.5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2017
It's just a side effect when transitioning to warp drive, nothing to worry about.

Worrisome for the sentients who live in subspace. Ban warp drive now!
swordsman
4 / 5 (1) May 14, 2017
So what is the Fourier spectrum of the radiation? This will define the size of the oscillators.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (6) May 14, 2017
One type of FRBs has been identified as emanating from the magnetrons of microwave ovens when the door is opened during a heating cycle, caused by the collapse of the magnetic field around the magnetron. These were called "perytons."

Hence why the plasma ignoramuses (astrophysicists) see this as such a mystery, they are oblivious to electricity in plasmas and the various phenomena that is created.
phlox1
not rated yet May 15, 2017
Rogue wave ? Just like the mega waves that forms at random points on the sea?
It may be constructive interference from one or more e-m sources
If so, an origin point will never be found because it does not exist.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) May 15, 2017
So what is the Fourier spectrum of the radiation? This will define the size of the oscillators.

The fourier spectrum gives the frequencies contained (and their respective power within the signal) - not the magnitude of the entire oscillation.

If you just want the magnitude of the oscillation then look at the signal itself. No need for a fourier transform.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 15, 2017
the researchers found that the FRB had taken an interesting path through the Milky Way to make its way to us—a hole of sorts that, prior to the detection of the FRB, was unknown.


What is this supposed to mean?

The way I get it from the paper is that the polarization of light is affected by them magnetic field and the free electrons in the intervening space. This "rotation measure" is usually just dependent on a constant factor (RM) and the square of the frequency. Since the FRB is close to the galactic plane some polarization from the galactic magnetic field/free electron columns is expected. However, RM seems to be surprisingly low (in a range around zero with 95% confidence) for this FRB.
So it looks like the line of sight to this event is through a 'hole' ( i.e. region of low magentic field, one which includes a field reversal, or low electron column density...or any/all of the above))
EmceeSquared
not rated yet May 15, 2017
Thanks for the clarification. That point is an important detail in this story. Bob Yirka seems to have preferred to write a story about "mystery", not about clarity.

antialias_physorg:
The way I get it

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.