FRB’s are energetic flares of radiation that last just a few milliseconds, and most of them flare randomly only once, then they are never detected again. Further, FRBs are believed to generate a billion times more energy than any known object in our galaxy. In fact, this energy equals what would be produced by 500 million of our suns, according to NASA.
As previously reported by TMU, scientists reportedly observed FRBs coming from somewhere deep in space in 2019. This was only the second time repeated blasts of signals of this type had ever been recorded. Now, scientists have discovered that FRB, ‘121102’ – one of the most famous active FRBs discovered – repeating bursts only several times since its discovery in 2012, has revealed a pattern.
According to a study of new observations and previously published research, ‘FRB 121102’ exhibits repeated burst activity for a period of about 90 days, before going quiet for about 67 days. Then this whole 157-day cycle repeats again. If this analysis is accurate, the source should have entered a new activity cycle around June 2nd of this month.
“This is an exciting result as it is only the second system where we believe we see this modulation in burst activity,” explained astronomer Kaustubh Rajwade of The University of Manchester.
“Detecting a periodicity provides an important constraint on the origin of the bursts and the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star.”
Now the scientists need to determine the origin of the bursts.
“If we consider now also orbital motion to be the cause of the observed periodicity in FRB 121102, the large range in the observed periods (16-160 days) can constrain the possible binary systems,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
“High-mass X-ray binaries are systems with a neutron star in an orbit with a massive O/B star. HMXBs in our Galaxy and the Small Magellanic Cloud have a large range of orbital periods, ranging from few tens to hundreds of days… On the other hand, binaries where the donor star fills the Roche lobe of the system have much shorter periods (< 10 days) and are unlikely to be possible progenitors,” they added.
“This exciting discovery highlights how little we know about the origin of FRBs,” said physicist and astronomer Duncan Lorimer of West Virginia University. “Further observations of a larger number of FRBs will be needed in order to obtain a clearer picture about these periodic sources and elucidate their origin.”
Most scientists who speculate on the origin of FRBs, point at magnetars or magnetic oscillations of neutron stars as possible explanations. Other hypotheses include ‘pulsar collapses’ and ‘black hole collisions’.
According to Harvard’s Abraham Loeb, a respected astronomer:
“At the moment we do not have a smoking gun that clearly indicates the nature of FRBs. So all possibilities should be considered, including an artificial origin. A civilization might generate a powerful beam of light to propel cargos with a sail and we could observe the leakage of that radiation outside the boundaries of the sail.”
While Loeb didn’t dismiss the potential that the radio bursts could be caused by aliens, he told CNET that the explanation could be much simpler:
“We observe periodicity in many astrophysical systems such as pairs of stars. Therefore, by itself—periodicity is not unusual enough to require an artificial origin. If we detected a Morse coded message, the data would have required a more creative interpretation.”
Strangely enough, another “mystery radio signal” has been recorded this year as repeating based on a clear discernible pattern, according to a paper by a team of astrophysicists in Canada, that pinpointed the fast radio bursts to have an unprecedented 16-day cycle.
Another scientist named Loeb along with a colleague, Avi Loeb and Manasvi Lingam, have previously proposed the idea that FRB’s may originate from alien solar sails, as such a propulsive source used to travel the cosmos.