Mysterious radio blasts from distant object in space baffle scientists

A mysterious and distant object in space, which at times emits terribly powerful Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), so intense that they are visible almost all over the universe has baffled the scientific community.

Scientists do not exclude the possibility of the origin of the phenomenon being an extraterrestrial culture though, they consider a natural explanation to be more likely.

Puerto Rico's Arequipo, the world's largest radio telescope made the initial observations, but the observations that followed and confirmed the original findings were made by astronomers at the University of California-Berkeley with help from the Greyhound Broadcasting, as part of the Breakthrough Listening Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

According to the new observations, the flares from FRB 121102 exhibit nearly 100 per cent linear polarisation, something completely unusual. According to experts, this probably means that the source of FRBs originates in a hot gas (plasma) with a strong magnetic field.

FRBs are very short, fast pulses of radio waves whose sources are not known, which makes them one of the greatest mysteries of modern astronomy. This particular (FRB 121102) is the sole source seen to recur so often.

Astronomers had till now ''caught'' over 200 such powerful radio broadcasts from the same source, which exists in a dwarf galaxy at about three billion light years from earth.

According to experts, the short bursts ranging from 30 microseconds to 9 milliseconds in duration, indicate that the source could be as small as 10 kilometers across – the typical size of a neutron star.

The source could also be a magnetar interacting with the nebula of material shed when the original star exploded to produce the magnetar; or interactions with the highly magnetised wind from a rotating neutron star, or pulsar. A magnetar, a type of neutron star has an extremely powerful magnetic field.

"At this point, we don't really know the mechanism. There are many questions, such as, how can a rotating neutron star produce the high amount of energy typical of an FRB?" said UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Vishal Gajjar of Breakthrough Listen and the Berkeley SETI Research Center.