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Distant galaxy sends out 15 high-energy radio bursts

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2017 3:21 am

Unread post Wed Aug 30, 2017 8:49 pm

Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, has detected 15 brief but powerful radio pulses emanating from a mysterious and repeating source – FRB 121102 – far across the universe.

Fast radio bursts are brief, bright pulses of radio emission from distant but largely unknown sources, and FRB 121102 is the only one known to repeat: more than 150 high-energy bursts have been observed coming from the object, which was identified last year as a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth.

Possible explanations for the repeating bursts range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields – so-called magnetars – to a more speculative idea: They are directed energy sources, powerful laser bursts used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft, akin to Breakthrough Starshot's plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to Earth's nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

"Bursts from this source have never been seen at this high a frequency," said Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and of the Breakthrough Listen program.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Aug 30, 2017 8:50 pm

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Credit: University of California - Berkeley

A sequence of 14 of the 15 detected bursts illustrate their dispersed spectrum and extreme variability. The streaks across the colored energy plot are the bursts appearing at different times and different energies because of dispersion caused by 3 billion years of travel through intergalactic space. In the top frequency spectrum, the dispersion has been removed to show the 300 microsecond pulse spike. Capturing this diverse set of bursts was made possible by the broad bandwidth that can be processed by the Breakthrough Listen backend at the Green Bank Telescope.

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