What Causes Fast Radio Bursts?

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Since they were first discovered in 2007, astronomers have been trying to understand mysterious “fast radio bursts” that come from an unknown source in the universe. An Australian telescope observed one of the bursts in real-time last May, but still nobody knows where they come from.

German scientists recently studied data and found a strange pattern among the bursts. In their work, which published on March 30th in the online research database arHiv, the German team analyzed the 11 bursts that have been detected. They examined the “dispersion measure,” which is a feature that represents the time differential between a burst’s high frequencies and its low frequencies. They were surprised to discover that the dispersion measure of each of the bursts is exactly 187.5. Such precisely even spacing is unlikely to be a fluke. In fact, the team calculated only a 5 in 10,000 chance of a coincidence.

So what are these mysterious fast radio bursts? The study’s co-author Michal Hippke told New Scientist, “This will either be new physics, like a new kind of pulsar, or, in the end, if we can exclude everything else, an E.T.” But what about other sources of signals, such as modern technology here on Earth? Since the article published, several scientists have weighed in and suggested that the bursts are the result of interference from some device that emits short-frequency radio waves followed by high-frequency ones. In sum, experts have concluded that fast radio bursts come from either: natural astrophysical phenomena, a cell phone tower here on Earth, or…aliens.

Source: New Scientist | Huffington Post

Photo by Hubble Heritage

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