More fast radio bursts detected from same location

Repeated wave blasts suggest nondestructive event as source


COME AGAIN  A young neutron star might be behind a repeating source of cosmic radio waves detected at the Arecibo Observatory (left) and the Green Bank Telescope (right).

NOAA/Wikimedia Commons; NRAO/AUI/NSF

A chatty source of radio waves from deep space has a little more to say. Six more blasts of radio energy, each lasting just a few milliseconds, erupted from some phenomenon outside of our galaxy, researchers report in the Dec. 20 Astrophysical Journal. This detection follows 11 previously recorded outbursts of radio waves from the same location, the only known repeater in a class of enigmatic eruptions known as fast radio bursts.

The origins of these radio bursts, 18 of which have been reported since 2007, are an ongoing puzzle (SN: 8/9/14, p. 22). The continuing barrage from this repeating source, roughly 3 billion light-years away in the constellation Auriga, implies that whatever is causing some radio bursts is not a one-time destructive event such as a collision or explosion. Flares from a young neutron star, the dense core left behind after a massive star explodes, are a promising candidate.   

The latest volley was detected in late 2015, Paul Scholz, a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues report. Five blasts were recorded at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and one at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This object was first detected at Arecibo in 2012. Ten more blasts followed in May and June 2015 (SN: 4/2/16, p. 12).

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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