Mysterious radio bursts from space ‘repeat in pattern lasting 157 days’

Sunrise at the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank has been a familiar feature of the Cheshire landscape for over 50 years - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Radio Telescope Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester.

Astronomers have spotted a mysterious radio burst from space, which repeats in a regular pattern lasting 157 days.

Fast radio bursts are bright pulses of radio emission just milliseconds in duration, but incredibly energetic, detected by telescopes on Earth.

Researchers at Jodrell Bank analysed the source of a 'fast radio burst', or FRB, and found that it follows a cyclic pattern lasting 157 days.

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Shooting stars and the Milky Way are seen over the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire.
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Shortie, the Jack Russell Terrier and the Ardbeg Whisky Distillery mascot, is depicted in a 200 feet diameter crop circle in a field near Macclesfield in Cheshire - overlooked by the Jodrell Bank Observatory, to mark the imminent return of samples of new-make spirit, which in October 2011 were sent into space.
General Views of The Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Macclesfield.
A general view of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Lower Withington, Cheshire, taken using a time exposure of twenty six minutes.
Sir Bernard Lovell, inventor of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire.
Soviet cosmonaut Lieutenant-Colonel Valery Bykovsky (r) by the giant bowl of the radio telescope during his visit to Jodrell Bank. With him is Sir Bernard Lovell, (l) Professor of radio Astronomy and Director of Jodrell Bank Experimental Station, who is showing him around.
Soviet cosmonaut Lieutenant-Colonel Valery Bykovsky, right, during his visit to Jodrell Bank. With him is Sir Bernard Lovell, centre, Professor of radio Astronomy and Director of Jodrell Bank Experimental Station, who is showing him around.
Soviet cosmonaut Lieutenant-Colonel Valery Bykovsky by the giant bowl of the radio telescope during his visit to Jodrell Bank. With him is Sir Bernard Lovell, Professor of radio Astronomy and Director of Jodrell Bank Experimental Station, who is showing him around.
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Analysing 32 bursts, researchers noticed bursts observed in a window lasting approximately 90 days followed by a silent period of 67 days.

Theories of what causes the bursts range from highly magnetized neutron stars blasted by a nearby supermassive black hole... to signatures of technology developed by advanced civilisations.

The presence of a repeating pattern could imply that the powerful bursts are linked to the orbital motion of a massive star, a neutron star or a black hole.

Dr Kaustubh Rajwade, of the University of Manchester, who led the research, said: "This is an exciting result as it is only the second system where we believe we see this modulation in burst activity.

"Detecting a periodicity provides an important constraint on the origin of the bursts and the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star."

The existence of FRBs was only discovered in 2007 and they were initially thought to be one-off events related to a cataclysmic event such as an exploding star.

This picture partly changed once FRB 121102, originally discovered with the Arecibo radio telescope on November 2 2012, was seen to repeat in 2016.

Professor Benjamin Stappers, who leads the MeerTRAP project to hunt for FRBs using the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, said: "This result relied on the regular monitoring possible with the Lovell Telescope, and non-detections were just as important as the detections."

In a new paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team confirm that FRB 121102 is the second repeating source of FRBs to display such periodic activity.

To their surprise, the timescale for this cycle is almost 10 times longer than the 16-day periodicity exhibited by the first repeating source, FRB 180916.J10158+56, which was recently discovered by the CHIME telescope in Canada.

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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