Fast Radio Burst From Other Galaxy Repeats Every 16 Days

A radio telescope detected a fast radio burst from another galaxy. The signal pulsates in a regular 16 day cycle, according to a new paper posted on arXiv.

The phenomenon, known as FRB 181112, was identified by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. Follow-up observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the radio pulses must have passed through the halo of another large galaxy on their way toward Earth. You can find the FRB in the Northern Hemisphere constellation of Auriga.

A fast radio burst from outside our galaxy
The fast radio burst FRB 181112 traveling from a distant galaxy to reach the Earth.

FRBs do repeat. But scientists observed this FRB repeating in a steady cycle. Some have already suggested this radio signal could be signals from an advanced alien civilization. Though, scientists don’t take that theory seriously. Still, the observations can help us understand these mysterious signals.

Fast radio bursts (FRB) are intense blasts of radio waves. They create as much energy in a millisecond burst as the Sun does in several decades. Whatever produces them must be extremely strong. Still, their origin remains unknown. Current theories include:

  • evaporating black holes
  • rotating celestial bodies, such as a highly magnetized neutron stars (known as magnetars), or
  • some unknown collision we haven’t discovered yet.

Scientists detected the first FRB in 2007 through archived data originally recorded in 2001. Astronomers are still just starting to understand them. Most FRBs have only been detected as ultra-brief energy bursts in a one-off event. Although a few have been detected as a repeating event. This new discovery, strangely, repeats regularly.

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