Astronomers Detected A Bizarre ‘Heartbeat’ Like Radio Signal From Deep Space

Our comprehension of these enigmatic occurrences is once again being tested by a fresh radio transmission from outer space.

This brand-new rapid radio burst, designated FRB 20191221A, is not only an incredibly uncommon repeater, but it’s also not that fast: the radio flashes seen in intergalactic space last three seconds, which is roughly 1,000 times longer than usual.

However, inside this three-second timeframe, bursts of greater intensity radiation happen every 0.2 seconds, which has never before been observed in a fast radio burst.

What Signals Did CHIME Pick Up?

The CHIME detector picked up the signal in December 2019, and researchers recognised right away they were on to something pretty strange.

Astrophysicist Daniele Michilli of the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research remarked, “It was uncommon.”

“It was around three seconds long and had extremely exact periodic peaks that emitted boom, boom, boom sounds every fraction of a second, just like a heartbeat. The signal itself is periodic for the first time at this point.”

The Origin Of The First Radio Bursts

One of the most intriguing cosmological mysteries at the moment is the origin of fast radio bursts. They are incredibly strong radio bursts of radiation that flash from intergalactic space in a very little period of time—usually milliseconds. The eruption releases as much energy as 500 million Suns in that little instant.

Most quick radio bursts only flare once and are then silent for a while. These cannot be predicted, therefore the only way to find one is to pray that it happens while a radio telescope is oriented in the appropriate direction (although projects like CHIME, with a large viewing area, are helping immensely in this regard). These FRBs are the most typical kind.

Repeated signals from one location in the sky are far less common. These are the quick radio bursts that repeat. Because they reoccur, researchers may use a telescope to observe the sky and examine the signals much more closely.

Though it’s not obvious if all quick radio bursts are caused by the same mechanism.

The 2020 Radio Burst From The Milky Way Galaxy

Intensity, wavelength, polarization, and dispersion are all variables. One fast radio burst in particular provides a critical hint: in 2020, a fast radio burst was discovered coming from inside the Milky Way for the first time. It was located in a particular kind of neutron star called a magnetar, indicating that at least some fast radio bursts may have been caused by these intensely magnetic, ultradense objects.

What Were The Observations Of CHIME?

Michilli stated that “CHIME has now identified several FRBs with various characteristics.” “Some of the creatures we’ve observed dwell in extremely chaotic clouds, while others appear to be in pristine settings. We can infer from the characteristics of this new signal that the plasma cloud surrounding this source must be very turbulent.”

Regarding what it is, all indications continue to point to a neutron star of some sort.

How Are Neutron Stars Formed?

The collapsing cores of huge stars that have finished their lives and ejected the majority of their material into space are known as neutron stars. The core collapses into an enormously dense object that is around 20 kilometers (12 miles) broad and up to an estimated 2.3 times the mass of the Sun since it is no longer supported by the outward pressure of fusion.

What Are These Magnetars?

A form of neutron star known as a magnetar has an obscenely powerful magnetic field. Massive earthquakes occasionally occur in magnetars as a result of the magnetic field’s dueling outward and inward pulls.

What Are These Pulsars?

Neutron stars called pulsars emit radio emission beams from their poles that appear to pulse because they spin at speeds on the order of milliseconds.

What Were The Observations Of The Researchers?

When Michilli and his colleagues examined the bursts from FRB 20191221A, they discovered characteristics that were shared with pulsar and magnetar emission.

What Is The Issue?

The only issue is that, although the exact distance of FRB 20191221A is unknown, it is likely that it originated from another galaxy because its outburst is almost a million times brighter than magnetars and pulsars in our own galaxy.

According to Michilli, there aren’t many objects in the universe that emit strictly periodic signals. “Examples of rotating objects that emit a beam of light like a lighthouse are radio pulsars and magnetars, which we are aware of in our own galaxy. Furthermore, we believe that this new signal might be an enhanced magnetar or pulsar.”

How Can We Find The Distance Of FRB 20191221A?

To determine where FRB 20191221A comes from and what might be causing it, the team is hoping to catch more outbursts from the enigmatic source. This could ultimately aid in our understanding of neutron stars.


According to Michilli, “This observation raises the question of what may be the source of this extremely strong signal that we have never seen, and how we can use this signal to explore the Universe.” “Future telescopes promise to find thousands of FRBs a month, and at that time we may uncover many more of these periodic signals,” the statement continued.

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