Astronomers have detected a radio signal coming from the Milky Way. The signal obtained is called a fast radio burst, which lasts milliseconds, and comes from deep within outer space.
Because the radio signal was so brief, it was only identified after being recorded in the satellite data. Scientists are currently still trying to figure out where such signals came from.
This isn't the first time satellites have picked out radio signals from space. The first FRBs were identified over a decade ago. Theories of their sources include cataclysmic events, particularly when two neutron stars collide with each other or a collapsing black hole.
However, these assumptions were dismissed when another FRB was detected. According to scientists, a black hole can only collapse once, which suggests that the source could be something else.
An international group of scientists has come together over the years to solve the mystery of the FRBs. As the years went by, more instances of FRBs occurred. Earlier this year, a group of experts traced an FRB back to a strange V-shaped star-forming region in a vast spiral galaxy half a billion light-years away.
The latest detection was disclosed in The Astronomer's Telegram, saying that bright radio burst came from the active magnetar known as SGR 1935+2154. This is a type of neutron star, the collapsed core of a massive star that is thought to have a compelling magnetic field.
The information was gathered on Tuesday. Scientists will first need to study the burst and validate their findings. If proven correct, they say it would be the first FRB ever detected originating from our own galaxy.
So far, other researchers studying FRBs have welcomed the findings. Jason W. T. Hessels, a Senior Scientist at ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, described the discovery as a "breakthrough' for the field.
More To Investigate
Hessels said that the possibility of bursting magnetars being the source of some FRBs is vigorously being considered. However, he says that a key question still remains. Do all FRBs come from bursting magnetars, or do they come from a variety of varied origins?
Hessels also mentioned how it was interesting that an X-ray burst was detected at the same location. He says it helps in showing how the burst released much energy.
According to him, it helps scientists understand what actually happened to the neutron star and its magnetosphere.
Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and Principal Investigator of Breakthrough Listen, described the results as "very exciting." He said one of the crucial questions about FRBs is what is generating them. He said if the results are proven to be accurate, it would be "strong evidence" that some FRBs arise from magnetars.
Siemion said that the link between magnetars and FRB occurrence would still present some critical questions. Some of these would question why only certain magnetars produce FRBs, and what gives rise to the repetition seen in specific FRB sources. Another question left hanging is if there is a possibility of a second or third source of single-pulse FRBs independent of the magnetar model.
Providing answers to such questions will necessitate more observations, but knowing that sources like SGR 1935+2134 can produce bright radio pulses provides a supportive hint as to where scientists ought to be looking, he says.