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Space Science

Astronomers May Be Closing in on Source of Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts (theguardian.com) 57

Astronomers appear to be closing in on the source of enigmatic radio pulses emanating from space that have become the subject of intense scientific speculation. From a new report: Previous candidates for the origin of the fleeting blasts of radiation -- known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs -- have included exploding stars, the reverberations of weird objects called cosmic strings or even distant beacons from interstellar alien spaceships. Now, new observations provide backing for a scenario involving a rapidly rotating neutron star cocooned by an ultra-powerful magnetic field. The explanation is more orthodox than some of the alternatives offered, but could point astronomers towards some of the most extreme magnetic environments in the known universe.

"Our preferred model is that they are coming from a neutron star ... that could be just 10 or 20 years old in an extreme magnetic environment," said Jason Hessels, a co-author of the new paper and astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Dutch town of Dwingeloo. Fast radio bursts have perplexed astronomers ever since the signals were discovered in 2007 in earlier observation data from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
About 30 of these objects have been discovered deep in space since the first was detected, all but one burping out a cataclysmic radio pulse exactly once and then disappearing into the night. Only one burster, known as FRB121102, after the date it was discovered (Nov. 2, 2012), has repeated itself, hundreds of times now.

Astronomers May Be Closing in on Source of Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts

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  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:15PM (#55903409)

    Previous candidates for the origin of the fleeting blasts of radiation -- known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs -- have included exploding stars, the reverberations of weird objects called cosmic strings or even distant beacons from interstellar alien spaceships.

    You forgot to list the microwave oven that was in the break room in the next building. That was at the radio observatory in West Virginia, if I recall correctly.

    • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:27PM (#55903495)

      Come to think of it many UFO reports say the ship disappeared accompanied by a mysterious "Ding" sound.

    • Previous candidates for the origin of the fleeting blasts of radiation -- known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs -- have included exploding stars, the reverberations of weird objects called cosmic strings or even distant beacons from interstellar alien spaceships.

      You forgot to list the microwave oven that was in the break room in the next building. That was at the radio observatory in West Virginia, if I recall correctly.

      Your UFO is a hot burrito!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It was, at least originally.

        The earlier name for Fast Radio Bursts (FaRBs) was Fast Radio Transients (FaRTs). The theory was that neutrino stars ate too many bean burritos too quickly and thus emitted FaRTs. Hey, just try to prove that degenerate matter in a neutrino star didn't start out as a burrito...

        This bit of Alternative Science brought to you by Old El Paso, makers of fine (burp! squeak!) bean burritos!

  • Stock photo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:18PM (#55903435) Homepage
    The "artist’s impression of a flash from FRB 121102" photo in the article is both hilarious and scary that this is how science is reported.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, I like imagining a bolt of lightning kiloparsecs long. It is, after all, winter in the northern hemisphere, and I'm sure somewhere in the universe there are some pretty damn big cats rubbing up against stuff.

    • The "artistâ(TM)s impression of a flash from FRB 121102" photo in the article is both hilarious and scary that this is how science is reported.

      What's scary is how accurately that star is to be able to hit the radio telescope, especially since the radio signal is so strong that it's visible!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What's scary is how accurately that star is to be able to hit the radio telescope, especially since the radio signal is so strong that it's visible!

        Which if you stop and think about it, isn't that surprising.

        The universe is vast. Pretty much anything we can think of in terms of the lifecycle of stars and galaxies has probably happened somewhere, and likely many many things we can't think of or haven't yet figured out. This is over a span of billions of years.

        With billions and billions of galaxies, each wi

      • What's scary is how accurately that star is to be able to hit the radio telescope, especially since the radio signal is so strong that it's visible!

        Well a dish of that size is probably pretty well grounded.

    • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:56PM (#55903697)

      It's an artist's impression, ffs, not an autist's impression. What do you expect an artist to do, draw nothing?

    • What do you mean? Radio waves are well known to travel in zig zag patterns
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      "artist's impression of a flash from FRB 121102" photo in the article is both hilarious and scary

      That's what happens when you don't use a surge protector.

  • It's just alien music, we are just not hip enough to understand...
  • by Picodon ( 4937267 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:47PM (#55903631)

    The explanation is more orthodox than some of the alternatives offered...

    Unfortunately, no matter how extraordinary, scientific observations rarely (if ever) accommodate exciting far-fetched theories, leading disaffected audiences back to television...

    • The explanation is more orthodox than some of the alternatives offered...

      Unfortunately, no matter how extraordinary, scientific observations rarely (if ever) accommodate exciting far-fetched theories, leading disaffected audiences back to television...

      Oh yes they do. It may seem mundane and pointless repeated observations, but sometimes such things lead to huge advances in understanding, especially when the observed doesn't match the expected results, or when the results unexpectedly change.

      The discovery of atomic number was such a thing, where using X-Rays an aspiring young chemist named Moseley armed with an X-Ray tube and a crystal refractor proved that Mendeleev's periodic table actually made sense.

  • They've been traced to the Twitter account of a large orange being.

  • We'd better round up all suspected aliens from 7-11 stores and use any means necessary to get their one-time pads.

  • Occasionally I read about astronomers observations of intense radiations, massive mass of stuff, and longest of long distances but I just can't comprehend these like I can comprehend a short drive or a walk to the local Walgreens.
    • Far more enlightened view on the subject than astronomers have is provided by Douglas Adams:

      "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Well, credit to you for not being like the average slashdotter and immediately dismissing anything and everything you don't understand.

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