Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

Second repeating fast radio burst from space discovered

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Sandra Phillips | 10 January, 2019, 14:42

"With fast radio bursts, it's always felt like the more answers we get, the more questions we have", said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University who was not involved in the new research.

"[We now know] the sources can produce low-frequency radio waves and those low-frequency waves can escape their environment, and are not too scattered to be detected by the time they reach the Earth", said Tom Landecker, a CHIME team member. The unexpectedly low 400 MHz frequency suggests FRBs might be detected at even lower frequencies, but another instrument would have to be used for that, as this is as low as CHIME can go. Of the 13 reported here, one event has the lowest dispersion measure yet reported, implying that it is among the closest yet known, and another has shown multiple repeat bursts...

CHIME is a collaboration of more than 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). Before CHIME, astronomers noted that most of the previously detected bursts had frequencies around 1,400 MHz, and some wondered whether CHIME would detect any bursts at all in its range of 400 to 800 MHz.

The telescope processes radio signals recorded by thousands of atennas with a large signal processing system and is the largest of any on earth. The existence of a second repeating burst suggests there could be many more of the mysterious signals in the cosmos.

There's one near-certainty: these bursts are likely to be much more common.

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The new repeating FRB has another unusual characteristic as well.

This second repeater, found among the first few CHIME/FRB discoveries, suggests that there exists - and that CHIME/FRB and other wide-field, sensitive radio telescopes will find - a substantial population of repeating FRBs.

Take a deep breath, because here come some breathtaking numbers from the CHIME arXiv paper: "The computational challenge of the CHIME/FRB search is huge: The input data rate is 1.5PB/day, and the dedispersion transform computes 10 SNR values per second (total for all beams)". "This allows us to study how structures in the Universe formed and how they are distributed". "Our data will break open some of the mysteries of [the bursts]". While interesting, these new observations, he said, can not tell us about the nature of these sources-at least not yet.

Another interesting point to keep in mind, according to Loeb, is that the first repeater exhibited an associated persistent radio source, whereas the new repeater did not. Excitingly, it bears striking similarities to the first repeating FRB. "We would like to accurately localise them and understand which galaxies they are coming from. But it has to be in some special place tog I've us all the scattering that we see". "We haven't solved the problem, but it's several more pieces in the puzzle".

The search for FRBs has a simple motivation: so far, we have too few observations to settle on a cause for the phenomenon.

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