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Researchers from around the world are scratching their heads over a newly discovered radio burst detected on Earth, but with a completely unknown origin. A new report describing the event and the subsequent investigation is now available online, but the key takeaway is that despite our best efforts and wealth of technology employed to discover the source, humanity has simply come up short. What’s even more bizarre is that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Don't Miss: Amazon just discounted the Echo for the first time in 2017 Scientists call them “fast radio bursts,” or FRBs for short, and they’ve been confounding researchers for some time now. This newest burst, labeled FRB 150215 is the latest of 22 detected FRBs thus far, but it’s also the most frustrating for those hunting for the source. FRB 150215 was first detected in Australia by scientists running the Parkes Telescope, but once the radio burst arrived, many other research groups with their own powerful telescopes sprung into action in search of the source. Despite their best efforts, nobody has been able to figure out where the radio burst originated, which is odd for a number of reasons, but the strangest thing about FRB 150215 — and FRBs in general — is that anything powerful enough to produce a radio burst that could be detected on Earth, yet remain completely out of sight, must be absolutely massive in scale. Some scientists have theorized that the burst are created by supernovas, and that because the light of the event reaches Earth long before the radio waves, the source appears to have vanished. Of course, there are plenty of theories that hinge on the possibility of intelligent alien life attempting to make contact with other civilizations, but if that is indeed the case, we’re going to have one heck of a time trying to find them. See the original version of this article on BGR.com


A new mystery signal from deep space has been detected, leaving scientists baffled as to where it came from and what caused it. The signal, known as a fast radio burst (FRB), was detected in 2015 by scientists using the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. It adds to the two dozen other FRBs previously recorded. But this one, known as FRB 150215, is even stranger than those that came before it. FRBs are radio signals that last just a few milliseconds. They appear to be coming from deep space, but because of their extremely short duration—and because scientists normally only notice them in data after the event has taken place—their origin remains a mystery. The first FRB was detected in 2001. Since then, at least 20 other bursts have been recorded. One of these, FRB 121102, was found to repeat, with 16 bursts coming from the same direction in space. This allowed scientists to hone in on their location, finding that they were emanating from an unassuming small galaxy over three billion light-years away. But this still did not help scientists pinpoint their source—no known nearby object could have been producing the FRBs. Scientists have several theories about the source of FRBs. One is that they are caused by a cataclysmic event, such as a neutron star collapsing into a black hole or supernova. Another potential source is a young, highly magnetised neutron star. Neither, however, fully explains the FRBs recorded because a one-off high energy event like a collapsing star would not be able to produce repeating bursts. Don't miss: Why Did Rosenstein Agree To Take Part in the Comey Farce? Now, researchers led by Emily Petroff from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, have announced the discovery of another, even stranger FRB. Their study appears on Cornell University’s online server where scientists can share their research before it is formally published. In it, the team describe FRB 150215, which they were able to catch in real time, meaning immediate follow-up observations could be made to try and catch the source in action. This burst is unusual because scientists should not have been able to detect it at all. The Milky Way’s magnetic field, which the burst travelled through on its way to Earth, should have changed the way the FRB travelled. But this did not happen. In an interview with Gizmodo, Petroff explained: “It probably traveled through some kind of hole in the Milky Way that makes it easy to find compared to normal searches in the galaxy.” Most popular: Trump and Russia: What Constitutes an Independent Investigation? After the FRB was detected, the team carried out extensive follow-up observations in the hope of spotting the event that caused it. The array of telescopes used effectively means the team were covering as many cosmic bases as they could—different observations would pick up different potential sources. “We spent a lot of time with a lot of telescopes to find anything associated with it,” Petroff said. “We got new wavelength windows we’ve never gotten before. We looked for high-energy gamma rays and neutrinos...we ruled out some source classes but no detection is a little unhelpful. We’re still trying to figure out where this one came from.” Commenting on the study, Shami Chatterjee, from the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, told the website: “I have to say this is a fantastic paper but it is a bummer of a paper. They threw every resource that we have at this FRB...and they see nothing. It is incredibly important in the sense that even with relatively prompt follow-up there isn’t an afterglow or counterpart that is obvious.” Responding to questions about the source potentially being an advanced alien civilisation, Petroff said: “Just to be clear, we don't know what is causing the fast radio bursts we see, but we don't think it's anything to do with aliens!”


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: phys.org

FRBs are a relatively new development for space scientists—they are extremely short blasts of strong radio waves that come from space, but scientists have not been able to explain what makes them. In this new detection, the FRB, now named FRB 150215, was first detected by researchers working with the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. What made the detection of FRB 150215 unique was that several teams were prepared to train their telescopes on the FRB origin point shortly after it was detected. Unfortunately, none of them were able to detect anything that might identify its cause, or even exactly where it occurred. exactly. Additionally, after analyzing data from the follow-up telescopes, the researchers found that the FRB had taken an interesting path through the Milky Way to make its way to us—a hole of sorts that, prior to the detection of the FRB, was unknown. Thus, despite learning nothing new about the source of FRBs in general, the team has learned something new about our galaxy. The detection of FRB 150215 marks the detection of 22 FRBs to date, none of which have identifiable sources, making them one of the great mysteries of space science. Common sense suggests that finding a source should be relatively easy—it would take something pretty big to create such strong pulses of radio waves. The mysterious nature of FRBs has led to a host of theories regarding their nature, from supernova to intelligent alien communications. Others suggest the research into finding the source of FRBs has been unsuccessful because space scientists are looking at the problem backwards—FRBs, they note, could arise long after the precipitating event. That means it might make more sense to look for noticeable events in the night sky, like supernovas, and then monitor for FRBs sometime later. In any event, study of FRBs is likely to increase as the mystery deepens and new telescope technology emerges—some have even suggested that it is possible that FRBs are much more common than has been shown, and that once they are observed more regularly, researchers can focus on looking at patterns. Explore further: Mysterious bursts of energy do come from outer space Abstract We report on the discovery of a new fast radio burst, FRB 150215, with the Parkes radio telescope on 2015 February 15. The burst was detected in real time with a dispersion measure (DM) of 1105.6±0.8 pc cm^{-3}, a pulse duration of 2.8^{+1.2}_{-0.5} ms, and a measured peak flux density assuming the burst was at beam center of 0.7^{+0.2}_{-0.1} Jy. The FRB originated at a Galactic longitude and latitude of 24.66^{circ}, 5.28^{circ}, 25 degrees away from the Galactic Center. The burst was found to be 43±5% linearly polarized with a rotation measure (RM) in the range -9


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

Artist impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth. The colors represent the burst arriving at different radio wavelengths, with long wavelengths (red) arriving several seconds after short wavelengths (blue). This delay is called dispersion and occurs when radio waves travel through cosmic plasma. Credit: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium / NRAO Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief spurts of radio emission, lasting just one-thousandth of a second, whose origins are mysterious. Fewer than two dozen have been identified in the past decade using giant radio telescopes such as the 1,000-foot dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Of those, only one has been pinpointed to originate from a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away. The other known FRBs seem to also come from distant galaxies, but there is no obvious reason that, every once in a while, an FRB wouldn't occur in our own Milky Way galaxy too. If it did, astronomers suggest that it would be "loud" enough that a global network of cell phones or small radio receivers could "hear" it. "The search for nearby fast radio bursts offers an opportunity for citizen scientists to help astronomers find and study one of the newest species in the galactic zoo," says theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Previous FRBs were detected at radio frequencies that match those used by cell phones, Wi-Fi, and similar devices. Consumers could potentially download a free smartphone app that would run in the background, monitoring appropriate frequencies and sending the data to a central processing facility. "An FRB in the Milky Way, essentially in our own back yard, would wash over the entire planet at once. If thousands of cell phones picked up a radio blip at nearly the same time, that would be a good sign that we've found a real event," explains lead author Dan Maoz of Tel Aviv University. Finding a Milky Way FRB might require some patience. Based on the few, more distant ones, that have been spotted so far, Maoz and Loeb estimate that a new one might pop off in the Milky Way once every 30 to 1,500 years. However, given that some FRBs are known to burst repeatedly, perhaps for decades or even centuries, there might be one alive in the Milky Way today. If so, success could become a yearly or even weekly event. A dedicated network of specialized detectors could be even more helpful in the search for a nearby FRB. For as little as $10 each, off-the-shelf devices that plug into the USB port of a laptop or desktop computer can be purchased. If thousands of such detectors were deployed around the world, especially in areas relatively free from Earthly radio interference, then finding a close FRB might just be a matter of time. This work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online. More information: "Searching for Giga-Jansky Fast Radio Bursts from the Milky Way with a Global Array of Low-Cost Radio Receivers," Dan Maoz & Abraham Loeb, 2017, accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society arxiv.org/abs/1701.01475


News Article | January 5, 2017
Site: www.huffingtonpost.com

Thrilled scientists have finally traced the deep space source of mysterious bursts of powerful radio signals to an intriguing dwarf galaxy more than 3 billion light-years from Earth. “Now our objective is to figure out why that happens,” said one of the scientists, Casey Law of the University of California, Berkeley. Astronomers have detected similar signals (fast radio bursts, or FRBs) since 2007 and estimate that thousands of the signals shoot across the universe each day. Discovery of the dwarf galaxy’s signals, first detected a year ago, is groundbreaking because the bursts have repeated from the same location — and long enough to be tracked. “We are the first to show that this is a cosmological phenomenon. It’s not something in our backyard. And we are the first to see where this thing is happening, in this little galaxy, which I think is a surprise,” said Law. Astronomers initially detected the radio bursts coming from a single region far beyond the Milky Way in 2012 and labeled the emissions FRB 121102. After 83 hours over six months last year using the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope in New Mexico, astronomers detected nine more bursts from the same location and pointed the powerful Gemini optical telescope in Hawaii as well as a network of European radio telescopes at the region. That’s when FRB 121102 erupted again, several times, allowing scientists to pinpoint the source. Besides detecting the powerful FRBs, the team also observed an ongoing, persistent source of weaker radio emission in the same region. “We think that the bursts and the continuous source are likely to be either the same object or that they are somehow physically associated with each other,” said scientist Benito Marcote of the Joint Institute for VLBI in the Netherlands. The astronomers believe the pulse sources may be neutron stars — dense objects that form after a star collapses and emit radio pulses as they spin. The team also speculates that the pulse could be produced by highly magnetic magnetars, a kind of neutron star surrounded by material ejected by a supernova explosion — or may be the death pulses of a black hole. Some astronomers even speculated that the fast radio bursts were being broadcast by aliens. But an initially noted mathematical pattern became increasingly muddled as astronomers gathered more data. Whatever the final determination, the discovery could provide an important new window into the early universe and clues to other mysteries of the cosmos. “There used to be an expression, ‘as unchanging as the heavens,’” Cornell University team scientist Shami Chaterjee told National Geographic. “But the heavens are changing very fast. The sky is just boiling and seething with these incredibly powerful events that we don’t really understand.”


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: spaceref.com

Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are brief spurts of radio emission, lasting just one-thousandth of a second, whose origins are mysterious. Fewer than two dozen have been identified in the past decade using giant radio telescopes such as the 1,000-foot dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Of those, only one has been pinpointed to originate from a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away. The other known FRBs seem to also come from distant galaxies, but there is no obvious reason that, every once in a while, an FRB wouldn't occur in our own Milky Way galaxy too. If it did, astronomers suggest that it would be "loud" enough that a global network of cell phones or small radio receivers could "hear" it. "The search for nearby fast radio bursts offers an opportunity for citizen scientists to help astronomers find and study one of the newest species in the galactic zoo," says theorist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Previous FRBs were detected at radio frequencies that match those used by cell phones, Wi-Fi, and similar devices. Consumers could potentially download a free smartphone app that would run in the background, monitoring appropriate frequencies and sending the data to a central processing facility. "An FRB in the Milky Way, essentially in our own back yard, would wash over the entire planet at once. If thousands of cell phones picked up a radio blip at nearly the same time, that would be a good sign that we've found a real event," explains lead author Dan Maoz of Tel Aviv University. Finding a Milky Way FRB might require some patience. Based on the few, more distant ones, that have been spotted so far, Maoz and Loeb estimate that a new one might pop off in the Milky Way once every 30 to 1,500 years. However, given that some FRBs are known to burst repeatedly, perhaps for decades or even centuries, there might be one alive in the Milky Way today. If so, success could become a yearly or even weekly event. A dedicated network of specialized detectors could be even more helpful in the search for a nearby FRB. For as little as $10 each, off-the-shelf devices that plug into the USB port of a laptop or desktop computer can be purchased. If thousands of such detectors were deployed around the world, especially in areas relatively free from Earthly radio interference, then finding a close FRB might just be a matter of time. This work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online. Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe. Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.


The search for fast radio burst could be bolstered by citizen scientists using their mobile phones. A team of researchers has said a global network of phones and small radio receivers could be used to detect these mystery signals emanating from an unknown source in space. In a report that has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics (CfA) and Tel Aviv University say if such a network were in place, it could be used to detect a simultaneous radio blip. This blip would indicate a FRB has been recorded – coming from inside the Milky Way. FRBs are radio signals coming from unknown sources deep in space. Lasting just a few milliseconds, scientists have struggled to identify their origin – the few dozen that have been detected were identified from data after the event, meaning their origin could not be traced back. At present, only one FRB has been found to repeat. In total, scientists have recorded 16 bursts coming from FRB 121102 – meaning they could be tracked to a galaxy three billion light years away. But even though we now know the location, we still do not know what is causing these bursts. The search for more FRBs continues, with astronomers across the globe using huge radio telescopes to detect them. The team say this presents an opportunity to harness a global collective of citizen scientists to look out for FRBs from within our own galaxy. While other FRBs appear to be coming from deep space, there is no reason to think one could not emanate closer to home. "An FRB in the Milky Way, essentially in our own back yard, would wash over the entire planet at once. If thousands of cell phones picked up a radio blip at nearly the same time, that would be a good sign that we've found a real event," said lead author Dan Maoz of Tel Aviv University. How it would work: We propose to search for Galactic FRBs using a global array of low-cost radio receivers. Participating phones would continuously listen for and record candidate FRBs and would periodically upload information to a central data processing website, which correlates the incoming data from all participants, to identify the signature of a real, globe-encompassing, FRB from an astronomical distance. Triangulation of the GPS-based pulse arrival times reported from different locations will provide the FRB sky position, potentially to arc-second accuracy. Pulse arrival times from phones operating at diverse frequencies, or from an on-device de-dispersion search, will yield the dispersion measure (DM) which will indicate the FRB source distance within the Galaxy. FRBs have been detected at frequencies that match those used by mobile phones and Wi-Fi. Potentially, people could download an app that would constantly be running in the background, monitoring frequencies. It could then send data to a central processing facility where any abnormalities could be identified. The researchers calculate there might be FRBs in the Milky Way once every 30 to 1,500 years. But if it is a repeating burst – like FRB 121102 – it may pop up every week. "If FRBs originate from galaxies at cosmological distances, then their all-sky rate implies that the Milky Way may host an FRB on average once every 30 to 1,500 years," they wrote. "If FRBs repeat for decades or centuries, a local FRB could be active now." Avi Loeb, from the CfA, said: "The search for nearby fast radio bursts offers an opportunity for citizen scientists to help astronomers find and study one of the newest species in the galactic zoo."


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

For the first time, we have followed a fast radio burst home. While we’re still not sure what causes these brief barrages of radio waves, we now know where one of them comes from, giving us a new way to study their origins. Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are some of the universe’s most elusive phenomena: powerful radio signals that flash from distant space for milliseconds and then disappear without a trace. They have been blamed on everything from black holes to extraterrestrial intelligence. Because they’re so brief, and because radio telescopes can only watch a small area of the sky at a time, only 18 FRBs have ever been detected. Of those, only one has been observed to repeat: FRB 121102. Now, a team of astronomers has used a collection of radio telescopes around the globe to finally pinpoint this repeating burst. “It is absolutely nailed down,” says Shami Chatterjee at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who presented the results at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas today. “Even two months ago, I did not think we could tell this full story, and now we can.” Chatterjee and his colleagues tracked down the FRB using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, a group of 27 radio telescopes in New Mexico, and the 21-telescope European VLBI Network. Together, these networks can achieve much higher resolution than any single radio dish. After observing nine more bursts, they located the FRB about 100,000 times more precisely than previous attempts with individual telescopes. This boost in precision allowed Chatterjee and his colleagues to unambiguously associate an FRB with other signals for the first time. Persistent radio waves that the researchers discovered originating from near FRB 121102 are actually coming from exactly the same place, an extremely faint dot in the sky. That tiny dot, FRB 121102’s home, is a dwarf galaxy. It’s around a tenth the diameter of the Milky Way, dim but still forming stars, and more than 2.5 billion light years away. “Before this step was taken, we could still continue having endless arguments about exactly how far away the FRBs were and therefore what their energetics were and what they were coming from,” says Chatterjee. “Now we know.” Knowing where an FRB comes from allows us to rule out some of the many proposed explanations for their origins. Since this example is so far away, it must be extremely energetic and bright – so it’s unlikely that any of the other FRBs we’ve seen come from our immediate neighbourhood. Two explanations for FRB 121102’s origin still stand out. The first is that it could come from an active galactic nucleus: a bright region around a black hole in the centres of some galaxies that spews radio waves as it vaporises the gas and plasma around it. But the researchers’ preferred explanation is that FRB 121102 and its constant radio companion are caused by the remnants of a supernova being energised by a young, rapidly spinning neutron star. Since the FRB’s host galaxy is similar to the surprisingly faint galaxies that produce the brightest supernovae, this scenario is an enticing fit – although it’s nowhere near proven yet. “What we learn from these papers may not be applicable to FRBs more broadly,” says Peter Williams at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. It is possible that FRB 121102 is special and that most FRBs are of an entirely different, non-repeating type. “However, folks have looked for interesting objects at the positions of other FRBs and nothing particularly compelling has turned up. That’s consistent with the fairly wimpy host galaxy revealed by this work.” Chatterjee shares that concern. “Our highest priority for the future is to find one more FRB that repeats,” he says. “Right now we are arguing from a sample of one, which is always a dangerous argument to be making.”


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.nytimes.com

A composite image of FRB 121102, which astronomers identified as the source of bursts of radio waves.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Fast radio bursts seem to come from distant galaxies, but there is no obvious reason that, every once in a while, an FRB wouldn't occur in our own Milky Way galaxy too. If it did, astronomers suggest that it would be 'loud' enough that a global network of cell phones or small radio receivers could 'hear' it.

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