Scientists for the first time have discovered fast radio signals from outer space that is beating at a steady 16-day cycle.
Bursts were found to have a total cycle of about 16 days - four days of clusters and then 12 days of silence - which then repeated.
After observing the FRB for about 409 days, astronomers at the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Collaboration (CHIME) in Canada have been able to boil down on this pattern, but they still don't know what it means. First spotted in 2007, these powerful radio bursts are produced by energetic sources, though nobody is sure what those might be. "This object's location is radically different from that of not only the previously located repeating FRB, but also all previously studied FRBs", Kenzie Nimmo, a Ph.D. student at the University of Amsterdam and lead author of the paper, said.
The team used the CHIME array in British Columbia (see top) to scan for repeating FRBs between September 2018 and October 2019. It repeats at regular intervals.
Something in deep space is pulsing and sending signals to Earth in steady, like clockwork, 16-day cycles.
These bursts were recently traced to a spiral galaxy almost 500 million light-years away from Earth. The sources of these bursts are absolute mysteries to astronomers, and of the hundreds that have been detected so far, we've only localized where five actually come from.
CHIME researchers announced in January that they had traced that same signal back to a spiral galaxy some 500 million light-years from Earth.
It's possible the FRB could be orbiting a compact object, for example, a black hole, causing its pattern to repeat, the researchers added in the study. It could also be a binary system containing a massive star and super-dense stellar core called a neutron star, where signals from the latter are eclipsed by the winds from its enormous companion. Scientists say that flares from highly magnetized neutron stars, called magnetars, might be the source of some FRBs.
"Imagine getting one signal every 16 days - it would take forever to get a message". The researchers will also continue to watch FRB 180916.J0158 + 65 while it is still active to obtain other information on fast radio bursting.