An international team of astronomers may have uncovered the origin of the mysterious recurring radio bursts from space.
They say the radio bursts or pulses may have originated from a neutron star in an extremely powerful magnetic field.
Fast Radio Bursts
Fast radio bursts or FRBs are one of the strangest phenomena of unknown origin that take place in the universe. They are highly energetic bursts of radio waves or pulses that last for only a very short time, a few milliseconds to be exact.
These radio pulses have been known to reach the Earth at times, but astronomers have always been baffled by where they were coming from since they were first discovered in 2007.
Currently, there are 18 known FRBs, however, the first repeating fast radio burst, known as FRB 121102, was discovered in 2012.
Phenomenon Of Unknown Origin
Some have speculated that these radio signals originated from either magnetic events in the Milky Way or supermassive black holes in the distant universe. Others, on the other hand, liked to believe that the signals came from extraterrestrial intelligence.
Now, an international team of astronomers with radio telescopes around the world may have discovered the origin of these mysterious recurring signals.
In an extensive study published in the journal Nature on Jan. 11, the team explained that the FRB 121102 bursts are polarized and are emanating from a neutron star in an environment that has an extremely powerful magnetic field.
They believe the neutron star could be sitting either close to an enormous black hole or within a nebula. Also, they were able to detect the bursts at a higher frequency.
The team also observed that the fast radio bursts are being twisted as they travel through the magnetic field, an effect known as Faraday rotation.
Jason Hessels, the coauthor of the study and an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam, said that the stronger the magnetic field, the greater the twist becomes.
"The only sources in the Milky Way that are twisted as much as FRB121102 are in the galactic centre, which is a dynamic region near a massive black hole. Maybe FRB121102 is in a similar environment in its host galaxy," said Daniele Michilli from the University of Amsterdam.
The strong magnetic field suggests that the source of the bursts may be situated either near a massive black hole or in a powerful nebula.
Neutron Star As A Direct Source
The fact that the radio bursts lasted for a very short duration points to the fact that the source or object of those bursts is smaller in size. According to Hessels, the properties and shapes of these bursts closely resemble the radio pulses that were produced by a neutron star.
The researchers say they plan to continue monitoring the bursts for any changes in an effort to sort out the differences between the two hypotheses of a neutron star.