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Fast radio bursts may be from a neutron star orbiting a black hole

Twistiness of the radio waves suggests they traveled through a strong magnetic field

1:42pm, January 10, 2018
fast radio burst

TWISTS AND TURNS  The twisted waves from a distant fast radio burst suggest the burst originates from a neighborhood with a strong magnetic field. This artist’s impression represents the burst in different radio wavelengths: blue is a shorter wavelength, red is longer.

OXON HILL, Md. — Fast radio bursts could come from a turbulent home. At least one source of these bright, brief blasts of radio energy may be a young neutron star assisted by a nearby massive black hole, new research suggests.

“The biggest mystery around fast radio bursts is how such powerful and short-duration bursts are emitted,” says astronomer Daniele Michilli of the University of Amsterdam. The latest observations, reported online January 10 in Nature and at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, suggest the bursts are coming from an environment with an unusually strong magnetic field. That field leaves a signature mark on the radio waves, twisting them into spirals, Michilli and his colleagues report.

Only a few fast radio bursts have ever been detected, and most appear as one-off events. Few known processes in the universe can explain

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