Since fast radio bursts (FRBs) were discovered over a decade ago, scientists have puzzled over what could be creating these extreme flashes of radio waves from out of our galaxy. In a slow process of removal, the area of potential explanations has narrowed as fresh pieces of data are gathered about FRBs–just how long they survive , the frequencies of these radio waves discovered, and so on.
Now, a team led by McGill University researchers and members of Canada’s CHIME Fast Radio Burst cooperation has shown that FRBs include radio waves at frequencies lower than detected before, a discovery which redraws the boundaries for theoretical astrophysicists trying to put their finger on the source of FRBs.
“We detected fast radio bursts down to 110 MHz where before these bursts were only known to exist down to 300 MHz,” explained Ziggy Pleunis, a postdoctoral researcher at McGill’s Department of Physics and lead author of the study recently released in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “This tells us that the region around the source of the bursts must be transparent to low-frequency emission, whereas some theories suggested that all low-frequency emission would be absorbed right away and could never be detected.”
The analysis relied on an FRB source detected in 2018 by the CHIME radio telescope in British Columbia. Called FRB 20180916B, the origin has attracted special attention because of its relative proximity to Earth and how it emits FRBs at regular intervals.
The research team combined the capacities of CHIME with people of the following radio telescope, LOFAR, or Low Frequency Array, in the Netherlands. The joint effort not only enabled the detection of the unusually low FRB frequencies, but also demonstrated a consistent delay of around three days involving the higher frequencies being picked up by CHIME and the lower ones attaining LOFAR.
“This systematic delay rules out explanations for the periodic activity that do not allow for the frequency dependence and thus brings us a few steps closer to understanding the origin of these mysterious bursts,” adds co-author Daniele Michilli, plus a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physics at McGill.
Z. Pleunis et al, LOFAR Detection of 110–188 MHz Emission and Frequency-dependent Activity from FRB 20180916B, The Astrophysical Journal Letters (2021). DOI: 10. 3847/2041-8213/abec72
Speedy radio bursts demonstrated to include lower frequency radio waves than previously discovered (2021, April 16)
Recovered 16 April 2021
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