A mysterious signal from deep space is following a curious 157-day pattern.
The more we explore our universe, the more we understand an incredibly complex and mysterious system we live in. The cosmos is vast, and the more effort we put in exploring it, the more we understand how small we are compared to its vastness.
Our effort in understanding the universe has taken us to question many things. Our purpose, existence, and wonder whether we are alone in the cosmos.
Whether this is the case, we still don’t know, but we may eventually find out in our journey to understanding the universe.
To date, astronomers have identified more than 100 fast radio bursts, most of which were non-repeating signals.
Repeating cosmic radio signals
A group of researchers that studies Fast Radio Bursts to understand what these are has concluded that the enigmatic signals are far more mysterious than initially thought. A four-year observation of a particular FRB has revealed that it follows an evident cycle pattern of 157 days.
Using the 32 bursts discovered during the Lovell Telescope campaign, along with previously published observation data, the Jodrell Bank Observatory team found that the FRB discharge known as 121102 follows a cyclical pattern, with radio bursts observed in a window lasting approximately 90 days followed by a 67-day period of silence.
The same behavior is then repeated every 157 days.
“We predict that the source is currently ‘off’ and that it should turn ‘on’ for the approximate MJD range 59002−59089 (2020 June 2 to 2020 August 28).” the researchers wrote in the study.
This discovery provides an important clue for identifying the origin of these enigmatic alien signals. The presence of a regular burst sequence activity could imply that powerful explosions are linked to the orbital motion of a massive star, neutron star, or black hole.
However, aliens can’t be ruled out, as numerous observations have clearly pointed out in the past.
In a statement explaining the recent discovery, Dr. Kaustubh Rajwade of the University of Manchester, who led the new research, revealed that: “This is an exciting result as it is only the second system where we believe we see this modulation in burst activity. Detecting a periodicity provides an important constraint on the bursts’ origin, and the activity cycles could argue against a precessing neutron star. ”
The repeating FRB could be explained by the precession, as an oscillating top of a highly magnetized neutron star’s magnetic axis. Still, with current data, scientists believe it can be difficult to explain a precession period of 157 days, given the large magnetic fields expected in these stars.
The existence of FRBs was only discovered in 2007 and was initially thought to be a unique type of event related to a cataclysmic situation, such as an exploding star.
This perception changed in part once it was seen that FRB 121102, originally discovered with the Arecibo radio telescope on November 2, 2012, is a repeater.
However, until now, no one recognized that these bursts were, in fact, created in a regular pattern.
Professor Benjamin Stappers, who is leading the MeerTRAP project to search for FRBs using the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, said: “This result was based on regular monitoring possible with the Lovell telescope, and non-detections were as important as detections.”
In a new article published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team confirms that FRB 121102 is only the second repeated FRB source to show such periodic activity.
To his surprise, the time scale for this cycle is almost ten times longer than the 16-day periodicity exhibited by the first repeated source, FRB 180916.J10158 + 56, which was recently discovered by the CHIME telescope in Canada.
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