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Fast Radio Bursts: A New Theory Erupts from Neutron Star Mergers

Astrophysicists propose a new theory suggesting fast radio bursts (FRBs) could be the result of neutron star mergers, offering a fresh perspective on these cosmic phenomena.


Astrophysicists Elias Most from Princeton University and Alexander Philippov from the University of Maryland present a groundbreaking theory to explain the enigma of fast radio bursts (FRBs). Published in the journal Physical Review Letters, their proposition offers an alternative to existing hypotheses surrounding FRBs.

The Enigma of Fast Radio Bursts

Since the initial detection of an FRB in 2007, astronomers have documented over 600 similar occurrences. However, the source of these intense, fleeting bursts of radio waves remains unknown. One fact remains consistent – all FRBs detected to date appear to originate from distant galaxies.


The Magnetar Theory and Its Limitations

Current theories suggest magnetars – a type of slowly rotating neutron star – might be the culprits behind FRBs. These stars’ immense magnetic energy bursts align with the characteristics of FRBs. However, proving this theory has proven challenging due to lack of empirical evidence.


A Fresh Perspective on Fast Radio Bursts

Most and Philippov propose a novel theory, suggesting FRBs might be emitted just before the merger of two neutron stars. Previous studies indicate that these celestial mergers often have electromagnetic counterparts, with one recorded instance from 2017.

The Dance of Neutron Stars

As neutron stars draw nearer to each other, they spin faster, accelerating electrons over their poles and generating an electron-positron plasma field. As the stars approach collision, the amassed electromagnetic energy escapes their magnetic fields, culminating in a tremendous energy burst. This phenomenon could manifest as the FRBs detected on Earth.

Drawing Comparisons and Future Insights

The duo argues that these proposed bursts share similarities with the radio waves emitted by magnetars. The key difference is the timing: emissions from magnetars occur post-creation, while FRBs from neutron star mergers occur just before. Future technologies, like the Square Kilometer Array set for deployment in 2027, could finally provide confirmation for one or both theories.


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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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