'An exciting event' Mystery radio bursts emerge from within the Milky Way

ASTRONOMERS have detected a short-lived but intense burst of radio signals coming from within the Milky Way galaxy.

PUBLISHED: 21:42, Wed, Nov 4, 2020 | UPDATED: 21:42, Wed, Nov 4, 2020

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Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are incredibly short but powerful blasts from distant sources in space that have so far escaped explanation. Although the bursts only last a fraction of a second, astronomers have said they can be millions of times more powerful than the Sun. And one such blast was recently picked up in our galactic neighbourhood.

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A team of scientists in Canada, including some 50 students, postdoctoral researchers and professors, detected earlier this spring an unusually powerful radio burst from a nearby magnetar - a neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field.

The burst was detected on April 28 by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Fast Radio Burst Collaboration and presented to the world today (November 4) in the journal Nature.

Not only is it the closest radio burst to Earth astronomers have ever observed, but it may also have finally solved a 13-year-long mystery of where FRBs originate from.

In their study, the researchers described a radio burst that was 3,000 times stronger than of any magnetar measured so far.

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Astronomy news: Magnetar fast radio burstAstronomers have detected a radio burst coming from within the Milky Way galaxy (Image: GETTY)

Astronomy: Magnetar star with fast radio burstAstronomy: Magentars are stellar remnants with incredibly powerful magnetic fields (Image: MCGILL UNIVERSITY GRAPHIC DESIGN TEAM)

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The data gives credence to the theory some FRBs originate in magnetars.

Pragya Chawla, a PhD student at McGill University and study co-author, said: "We calculated that such an intense burst coming from another galaxy would be indistinguishable from some fast radio bursts, so this really gives weight to the theory suggesting that magnetars could be behind at least some FRBs."

The first FRB was discovered by chance in 2007 when two scientists trawled archival data from a pulsar survey.

The anomaly has since come to be known as the Lorimer Burst after West Virginia University astronomer Duncan Lorimer who discovered it with his student David Narkevic.

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