Cosmic Flashes Come in All Different Sizes

Cosmic Flashes Come in All Different Sizes

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On May 24, 4 European telescopes participated in the worldwide effort to comprehend strange cosmic flashes. The telescopes caught flashes of radio waves from a severe, magnetised star in our galaxy. All are displayed in this illustration. Credit: Danielle Futselaar/

By studying the website of an amazing excellent surge seen in April 2020, a Chalmers-led group of researchers have actually utilized 4 European radio telescopes to validate that astronomy’s most amazing puzzle will be fixed. Fast radio bursts, unforeseeable millisecond-long radio signals seen at big widths deep space, are created by severe stars called magnetars – and are remarkably varied in brightness.

For over a years, the phenomenon referred to as quick radio bursts has actually delighted and mystified astronomers. These extremely intense however very quick flashes of radio waves – lasting just milliseconds – reach Earth from galaxies billions of light years away.

In April 2020, among the bursts was for the very first time discovered from within our galaxy, the Milky Way, by radio telescopes CHIME and STARE2. The unanticipated flare was traced to a previously-known source just 25,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Vulpecula, the Fox, and researchers all over the world collaborated their efforts to follow up the discovery.

In May, a group of researchers led by Franz Kirsten (Chalmers) pointed 4 of Europe’s finest radio telescopes towards the source, referred to as SGR 1935+2154. Their outcomes are released today in a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We didn’t know what to expect. Our radio telescopes had only rarely been able to see fast radio bursts, and this source seemed to be doing something completely new. We were hoping to be surprised!” stated Mark Snelders, employee from the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam.

Onsala Space Observatory

Onsala Space Observatory in western Sweden. Credit: Magnus Falck/Chalmers University of Technology

The radio telescopes, one meal each in the Netherlands and Poland and 2 at Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, kept track of the source every night for more than 4 weeks after the discovery of the very first flash, an overall of 522 hours of observation.

On the night of May 24, the group got the surprise they were searching for. At 23: 19 regional time, the Westerbork telescope in the Netherlands, the just one of the group on task, captured a significant and unanticipated signal: 2 brief bursts, every one millisecond long however 1.4 seconds apart.

Kenzie Nimmo, astronomer at Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy and ASTRON, belongs to the group.

“We clearly saw two bursts, extremely close in time. Like the flash seen from the same source on April 28, this looked just like the fast radio bursts we’d been seeing from the distant universe, only dimmer. The two bursts we detected on May 24 were even fainter than that,” she stated.

This was brand-new, strong proof linking quick radio bursts with magnetars, the researchers believed. Like more remote sources of quick radio bursts, SGR 1935+2154 appeared to be producing bursts at random periods, and over a substantial brightness variety.

“The brightest flashes from this magnetar are at least ten million times as bright as the faintest ones. We asked ourselves, could that also be true for fast radio burst sources outside our galaxy? If so, then the universe’s magnetars are creating beams of radio waves that could be criss-crossing the cosmos all the time – and many of these could be within the reach of modest-sized telescopes like ours,” stated employee Jason Hessels (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy and ASTRON, Netherlands).

Neutron stars are the small, very thick residues left when a brief star of more than 8 times the mass of the Sun takes off as a supernova. For 50 years, astronomers have actually studied pulsars, neutron stars which with clock-like consistency send pulses of radio waves and other radiation. All pulsars are thought to have strong electromagnetic fields, however the magnetars are the greatest recognized magnets in deep space, each with an electromagnetic field numerous trillions of times more powerful than the Sun’s.

In the future, the group intends to keep the radio telescopes keeping an eye on SGR 1935+2154 and other close-by magnetars, in the hope of determining how these severe stars really make their quick blasts of radiation.

Scientists have actually provided lots of concepts for how quick radio bursts are created. Franz Kirsten, astronomer at Onsala Space Observatory, Chalmers, who led the task, anticipates the quick speed in comprehending the physics behind quick radio bursts to continue.

“The fireworks from this amazing, nearby magnetar have given us exciting clues about how fast radio bursts might be generated. The bursts we detected on May 24 could indicate a dramatic disturbance in the star’s magnetosphere, close to its surface. Other possible explanations, like shock waves further out from the magnetar, seem less likely, but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. Whatever the answers, we can expect new measurements and new surprises in the months and years to come,” he stated.

More about the research study, the telescopes and Onsala Space Observatory

The research study is released in a paper Detection of 2 intense radio bursts from magnetar SGR 1935+2154 in Nature Astronomy, by Franz Kirsten (Onsala Space Observatory, Chalmers), M. P. Snelders, M. Jenkins (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam) K. Nimmo (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, and ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Netherlands), J. van den Eijnden (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam and Department of Physics, Astrophysics, University of Oxford), J. W. T. Hessels (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, and ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Netherlands), M. P. Gawronski (Institute of Astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland) and Jun Yang (Onsala Space Observatory, Chalmers).

Reference: “Detection of two bright radio bursts from magnetar SGR 1935 + 2154” by F. Kirsten, M. P. Snelders, M. Jenkins, K. Nimmo, J. van den Eijnden, J. W. T. Hessels, M. P. Gawroński and J. Yang, 16 November 2020, Nature Astronomy.
DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01246-3
arXiv: 2007.05101

The observations were performed utilizing the 25-meter RT1 telescope at Westerbork, Netherlands, both the 25-metre and 20-metre telescopes at Onsala Space Observatory, and the 32-meter telescope in Torun, Poland.

Onsala Space Observatory is Sweden’s nationwide center for radio astronomy. The observatory offers scientists with devices for the research study of the earth and the rest of deep space. In Onsala, 45 km south of Gothenburg, it runs 4 radio telescopes and a station in the worldwide telescope Lofar. It likewise takes part in numerous worldwide jobs. The observatory is hosted by the Department of Space, Earth and Environment at Chalmers University of Technology, and is run on behalf of the Swedish Research Council.

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