A new study from researchers at Cornell University has revealed the existence of a mysterious new radio source from a galaxy that is 500 million light-years from Earth. Oddly enough it is pulsing on a 16-day cycle – this is the first time scientists are finding FRBs with periodicity.
Ever since 2007 FRBs has captured the attention of astronomers making them wonder who or what are sending these signals from the depth of the space. Most of the FRBs that were detected initially came as one-off signals while towards the middle of last decade we started finding FRBs that repeated. Even those multiple repeating FRBs came at random intervals.
But all that changed last year when the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst Project (CHIME/FRB) discovered that a repeater called FRB 180916.J0158+65 repeated at equal intervals of time. CHIME is a group dedicated to observing and studying FRBs, keeping a track of these events globally, looking for patterns and other information.
The team analyzed 28 bursts between September 2018 and October 2019 recorded by the CHIME telescope in British Columbia, Canada. During that period, the bursts were clustered into a period of four days. After which it remained silent for the next 12 days, completing a cycle of 16 days. While some cycles did not produce any visible bursts, those that did, all fell into the same 16-day intervals.
Scientists have tracked down this particular FRB to a galaxy called SDSS J015800.28+654253.0, which is a half a billion light-years from Earth. FRB 180916.J0158+65 happens to be the closest FRB we have ever detected.
Though we have identified the source of the signal scientists cannot explain why this particular FRB is bursting periodically. Various scientists are coming with different explanations for this discovery. The CHIMA team hopes to discover more of these repeating FRB and unravel the mysteries surrounding these signals.