Nearby Galaxy Emitting Mysterious Fast Radio Burst Picked Up On Earth

by : Lucy Connolly on : 07 Jan 2020 13:33
Nearby Galaxy Emitting Mysterious Fast Radio Burst Picked Up On EarthShriharsh Tendulkar/GEMINI OBSERVATORY/Adrian Renting/Wikimedia

Astronomers have traced the signal of a repeating fast radio burst for only the second time to a galaxy similar to our own.

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are millisecond-long bursts of radio waves in space; while individual fast radio bursts emit once and don’t repeat, repeating FRBs are known to send out short energetic radio waves multiple times.


While a number of individual FRBs have been traced back to their sources in other galaxies, this newly discovered repeating FRB has a different source from the first one that was found in 2019, mystifying scientists as to how these radio waves are created.


The source of the new repeating FRB, known as 180916.J0158+65, was pinpointed by eight telescopes in a galaxy half a billion light years from Earth.

This is seven times closer than the only other repeating radio burst, FRB 121102, which linked back to a small dwarf galaxy containing stars and metals, and more than 10 times closer than the non-repeating FRBs that have been traced.


Mohit Bhardwaj, McGill University doctoral student and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature, said as per CNN:

The FRB is among the closest yet seen, and we even speculated that it could be a more conventional object in the outskirts of our own galaxy.

However, the observation proved that it’s in a relatively nearby galaxy, making it still a puzzling FRB but close enough to now study using many other telescopes.


Benito Marcote, lead study author from the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, said the discovery of the first FRB’s source represented ‘the first piece of the puzzle’. However, he also said it ‘raised more questions than it solved’.


Marcote said these questions included:

Whether there was a fundamental difference between repeating and non-repeating FRBs. Now, we have localised a second repeating FRB, which challenges our previous ideas on what the source of these bursts could be.

The new FRB differs not only from the first one discovered, but also from all FRBs ever traced. ‘The differences between repeating and non-repeating fast radio bursts are thus less clear, and we think that these events may not be linked to a particular type of galaxy or environment,’ Kenzie Nimmo, study co-author, explained.

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope Space Galaxy Scientists Astronomy Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs)NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology

Given the fact this FRB is closer than all the others, astronomers will be able to observe it more in the future and will hopefully be able to unravel the mystery of what creates them.

The more bursts astronomers can trace, the more likely they will be able to use the signals to map how matter is distributed across the universe.

Basically, we’re one step closer to understanding the universe and that can only be a good thing, right?

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Science, galaxy, Space


Nature and 1 other
  1. Nature

    A repeating fast radio burst source localized to a nearby spiral galaxy

  2. CNN

    Mysterious repeating fast radio burst traced to nearby galaxy