It’s a cosmic first and lasted just 1.5 milliseconds.
In addition, scientists have traced these outbursts back to a rare kind of dead star known as a magnetar, the strongest magnets in the universe, for the first time.
Quick radio bursts, or FRBs, are powerful radio wave pulses that in a few thousandths of a second, can emit more energy than the sun in almost a century. Scientists discovered FRBs only in 2007, and astrophysicists still have many questions about them and their sources because the bursts are so fast.
From colliding black holes to alien starships, scientists have hundreds of hypotheses about the causes of fast radio bursts. The bursts come from neutron stars, which are corpses of stars that died in catastrophic explosions known as supernovas, several theories say. (Their name comes from how these stellar remnants’ gravitational pulls are strong enough to crush protons to form neutrons along with electrons.)
Previous research has explicitly proposed that fast radio bursts could erupt from a rare form of neutron star known as a magnetar. Magnetars are the most effective magnets in the universe, and their magnetic fields can be up to 5,000 trillion times stronger than those of Earth.
Christopher Bochenek, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and lead author of one of the new studies states, “A magnetar is a type of neutron star whose magnetic fields are so strong, they squish atoms into pencil-like shapes.”