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Fast Radio Bursts

Fast Radio Bursts

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Fast Radio Bursts

  • NASA has reported that it observed a mix of X-ray and radio signals never observed before in the Milky Way. Significantly, the flare-up it observed included the first fast radio burst (FRB) seen within the galaxy.

Detected by:

  • The X-ray portion of the simultaneous bursts was detected by several satellites, including NASA’s Wind mission, and the radio component was discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a radio telescope located at Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, which is led by McGill University in Montreal, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Toronto.
  • Further, a NASA-funded project called Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) also detected the radio burst seen by CHIME.
  • STARE2 is operated by Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the team behind it determined that the burst’s energy was comparable to FRBs.


  • The first FRB was discovered in 2007, since when scientists have been working towards finding the source of their origin.
  • Essentially, FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields) whose durations lie in the millisecond-scale, because of which it is difficult to detect them and determine their position in the sky.


The source of the FRB detected in the Milky Way is a very powerful magnetic neutron star, referred to as a magnetar, called SGR 1935+2154 or SGR 1935, which is located in the constellation Vulpecula and is estimated to be between 14,000-41,000 light-years away.


  • As per NASA, a magnetar is a neutron star, “the crushed, city-size remains of a star many times more massive than our Sun.”
  • The magnetic field of such a star is very powerful, which can be over 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet and up to a thousand times stronger than a typical neutron star’s.
  • Neutron stars are formed when the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse when it reaches the end of its life.
  • This results in the matter being so tightly packed that even a sugar-cube sized amount of material taken from such a star weighs more than 1 billion tons, which is about the same as the weight of Mount Everest, according to NASA.
  • Magnetars are a subclass of these neutrons and occasionally release flares with more energy in a fraction of a second than the Sun is capable of emitting in tens of thousands of years.
  • In the case of SGR 1935, for instance, the X-ray portion of the simultaneous bursts it released in April carried as much energy as the Sun produces in a month, assuming that the magnetar lies towards the nearer end of its distance range.


  • Until now, there were various theories that tried to explain what the possible sources of an FRB could be.
  • One of the sources proposed by the theories has been magnetars.
  • But before April this year, scientists did not have any evidence to show that FRBs could be blasted out of a magnetar.
  • Therefore, the observation is especially significant.
  • Taken together, the observations strongly suggest that SGR 1935 produced the Milky Way’s equivalent of an FRB, which means magnetars in other galaxies likely produce at least some of these signals.
  • Researchers will continue to look for an FRB outside of the Milky Way that coincides with an X-ray burst from the same source.

Source:”Indian Express”.


What is a radio burst, spotted by NASA for the first time in Milky Way? What is its significance?