Astronomers have tied the origin of a Fast Radio Burst to a highly magnetized, gas-filled region of space, providing a new hint in the decade-long quest to explain the mysterious radio pulses.
“We now know that the energy from this particular burst passed through a dense magnetized field shortly after it formed,” says Kiyoshi Masui, an astronomer with the University of British Columbia in Canada and lead author of the new findings published Wednesday in Nature.
“This significantly narrows down the source’s environment and type of event that triggered the burst — and means the source of the pulse likely resides within a star-forming nebula or the remnant of a supernova.”
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) — bursts of energy from space that appear as a short flashes of radio waves to telescopes on Earth — have baffled astronomers since first detected a decade ago. While only 16 have ever been recorded, scientists believe there could be thousands of FRBs a day.
Spotting bursts requires painstaking analysis of data recorded during radio astronomy observations. The newly identified FRB was discovered using data-mining software developed by Masui and Jonathan Sievers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. The software enabled the astronomers to find bursts more quickly within the data, an effort led by Hsiu-Hsien Lin from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“Hidden within an incredibly massive dataset, we found a very peculiar signal that matched all the known characterizes of a Fast Radio Burst, but with a tantalizing extra element that we simply…