Something Really Wants Our Attention: One Cosmic Object Emitted 1,652 Fast Radio Bursts in 47 Days

FAST Catches a Real Pulse From FRB 121102

FAST catches a real pulse from FRB 121102. Credit: NAOC

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are an energetic phenomenon that is one of today’s greatest cosmic mysteries. These mysterious flashes of light can be seen in the radio wave portion of the spectrum and usually last only a few milliseconds before disappearing forever. Since the first FRB was observed in 2007, astronomers have been anticipating the day when instruments with sufficient sensitivity would be able to detect them on a regular basis.

That day has arrived with the completion of the 500-meter (2,000-foot) FAST Radio Telescope (aka. Tianyan, “Eye of Heaven”) in southwest China. Since it commenced operations, this observatory has vastly expanded the number of detected FRBs. In fact, according to research led by the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAO/CAS), the observatory detected a total of 1,652 independent bursts from a single source in 47 days.

The research, which was recently published in the journal Nature, was conducted by researchers from the Commensal Radio Astronomy FAST Survey (CRAFTS) project. CRAFTS includes researchers from the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and multiple universities in China, Australia, and the U.S.

To break this phenomenon down, FBRs are highly energetic, producing a year’s worth of Solar output in the space of milliseconds. In rare cases, astronomers have found bursts that were repeating in nature, which has allowed them to conduct follow-up studies. While the origin of these bursts is still unknown, possible explanations range from hyper-magnetized neutron stars and black holes to cosmic strings left over from the Big Bang and even alien transmissions!

This exotic explanation is especially appealing where repeating FRBs are concerned, as repetition lends itself to artificial explanations. This includes the signal designated FRB 121102, which was originally detected in 2012 and is the first known repeater and the first well-localized FRB. Not only has this signal been traced to a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away, but it is repeatedly bursting at pretty regular intervals.

Previous observations determined that it repeats on a 157-day cycle that consists of a 67-day inactive phase, followed by a 90-day period where it would repeatedly emit intense radio flares. In recent years, Pei Wang and the many institutions participating in the FAST telescope project have monitored FRB 121102’s and recorded several repeating bursts – one that consisted of 20 pulses in one day and another where 12 bursts were observed in two hours.

From these, Wang and his colleagues were able to refine estimates of FRB 121102’s cycle, which they now place at 156.1 days. But when they examined the backend data obtained by FAST during its commissioning phase, they noticed that FRB 121102 experienced a truly energetic period of activity. During the three months, running from August 29th to October 29th, 2019, FAST detected no less than 1,652 independent bursts in 59.5 hours spanning 47 days.

SETI Homes in on Strange Fast Radio Bursts

The Green Bank Telescope monitoring the galaxy for Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). Credit: UC Berkeley

While the rate of radio pulses varied throughout this time, a record 122 bursts occurred during the peak hour – the highest event rate ever observed from an FRB. Based on the detected bursts, the researchers determined that they have a peak energy equivalence of 480 Nonillion (4.8 × 1037) ergs at 1.25 GHz, below which the detection of bursts is suppressed. As Dr. Wang said in a CAS Newsroom release:

“The total energy of this burst set already adds up to 3.8% of what is available from a magnetar and no periodicity was found between 1 ms and 1000 s, both of which severely constrains the possibility that FRB 121102 comes from an isolated compact object.”

They also determined that bursts’ energy distribution is bimodal in nature, meaning that they are distributed one of two ways, depending on the energy level. In other words, they found that weaker FRB pulses are more random while strong ones occur with greater consistency. Moreover, these latest results also allowed the team to investigate the range of theoretical causes and narrow them down.

For one, the lack of periodicity (or quasi-periodicity) of this repeating FRB challenges the notion that it results from a single rotating compact object (aka. a black hole or neutron star). Second, the high burst rate disfavors high-energy or contrived mechanisms, which casts doubt on theories of alien agency. But most of all, they found that the high-cadence of these bursts (where many happen in the course of hour-long spans) will facilitate future statistical studies.

Lorimer Burst Artist Impression

Artist’s impression of the Lorimer Burst observed by the Arecibo radio observatory. Credit and Copyright: Danielle Futselaar

Basically, they anticipate that astronomers will be able to conduct investigations into the periodic nature of these bursts, with searches lasting between 1 millisecond and 1000 seconds. What’s more, they anticipate that the FAST telescope will play a vital role. “As the world’s largest antenna, FAST’s sensitivity proves to be conducive to revealing intricacies of cosmic transients, including FRBs,” said Prof. Li.

In more recent news, the CRAFTS project has reported the discovery of six new FRBs, including a repeater that is similar to FRB 121102. These and other radio sources are cataloged on the CRAFTS website.

Adapted from an article originally published on Universe Today.

For more on this study, see Origin Unknown: Over a Thousand Powerful Cosmic Explosions Detected by FAST Telescope in 47 Days.

Reference: “A bimodal burst energy distribution of a repeating fast radio burst source” by D. Li, P. Wang, W. W. Zhu, B. Zhang, X. X. Zhang, R. Duan, Y. K. Zhang, Y. Feng, N. Y. Tang, S. Chatterjee, J. M. Cordes, M. Cruces, S. Dai, V. Gajjar, G. Hobbs, C. Jin, M. Kramer, D. R. Lorimer, C. C. Miao, C. H. Niu, J. R. Niu, Z. C. Pan, L. Qian, L. Spitler, D. Werthimer, G. Q. Zhang, F. Y. Wang, X. Y. Xie, Y. L. Yue, L. Zhang, Q. J. Zhi and Y. Zhu, 13 October 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03878-5

39 Comments on "Something Really Wants Our Attention: One Cosmic Object Emitted 1,652 Fast Radio Bursts in 47 Days"

  1. Radio burst? Sounds like they may be trying to communicate. Perhaps we need to find out what they are trying to say.

  2. Bill dunkelbergerunk | October 26, 2021 at 9:20 am | Reply

    16,000 in a month and a half? they re probably ads for tick tock

  3. You know it’s really wonderful to hear news about deep space and the things we are finding especially when it is about actual possible radio waves from another planet so why aren’t we directing some of our radio wave directly back to see if we get a response…

  4. Robert L Rogers | October 26, 2021 at 12:24 pm | Reply

    I know it’s a basic question, but has anyone looked at these emissions in the frequency range as equating to Morse code? Why not try the simplest way to communicate when not knowing the intellect of whom your talking with…start with the simplest solution’s first.

  5. Clearly not science, or they would know arecibo collapsed.

  6. Thr message is LET’S GO BRANDON!

  7. Margaret Rose James | October 26, 2021 at 2:27 pm | Reply

    It might sound like click bate but, after reading it,I’m glad it clicked on it. You’ll never know what’s out there until you study what you do find! Thank you for this article 👍🏼😊❤️Looking forward to more like it❗

  8. Science tech daily you are a bunch of about some actual accurate headlines

  9. eileen Martinez Carey | October 26, 2021 at 6:27 pm | Reply

    Agree Ray “CLICK- BAIT” ARRRGGG YAWN next…🙃🙄

  10. I NEED someone to contact me then that would like information review in a way that will open up the door for the next thousand years of technology. Tech being developed over the past 14 years. Tech that have for at least a year after last year’s plunder been scheduled to have this “ark of the covenant” delivered to every child in the World for Christmas by 🎅 & 🧑‍🎄! Yes Santa Needs Help, please contact @ [email protected] for collaboration.

  11. JOHN H SCONIERS | October 26, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Reply

    Maybe they are trying to tell us that out auto warranty has expired.

  12. JOHN H SCONIERS | October 26, 2021 at 8:30 pm | Reply

    Maybe they have been trying to reach us about our auto warranty about to expire

  13. Did u see if it’s Morse code

  14. C’mon folks…the object is 3 billion light years away…there is absolutely no sense in replying or trying to”converse” with it…3BILLION LIGHT YEARS AWAY…Anybody want to live forever!!!

  15. They’ve been trying to reach you about your cars extended warranty…I guess

  16. If they are “wanting” to contact us, what does it matter? We haven’t the slightest clue what they’re trying to say, no way to communicate back. They’re 3 billion light years away. Until we know what the message is, we do not know that they “want” to reach us lol.

  17. To answer another comment, we aren’t trying to communicate with them because the objects are several billion light years away. This literally means that any living species that happened to send a message from that far using light waves would likely be long dead by the time we received the message. It literally took 3 billion years to reach us. When you look out into the far reaches of space, you are also looking deeply into time itself.

  18. A long, long, time ago, in a galaxy far, far away!

  19. Maybe it’s about an extended warranty ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Ha.

  20. I guess more than want, is that they really need something (may be help or whatever assistance) is not normal that the very same “burst” or message is being repeated over and over again…and also if they really come from the center of the galaxy…there would be more possibilities that they need help since there are more extreme environments than in our area
    PD: how could someone confirm it’s not a spammer with just a click?0.o

  21. Aren’t those light waves from billion light years away from us, supposed to reach our planet for just a matter of time? I’m not sure but speed of light can travel anywhere in space except blackhole, I have no idea how fast speed of light is, maybe those light waves can reach us within just day, month but not for a year from the far away galaxy. So those creatures probably want us to know there is really something out there.

  22. I’m surprised you people believe in this kind of nonsense. There’s not an ounce of evidence to prove aliens exist, and really, there isn’t even any implication that the exist either. These so called “radio bursts” are merely a natural phenomenon, and yet you reprobate minded fools look at it as hope for alien life?! How? If there is any tangible evidence that is concrete, I challenge any who are able to present it to me. If you cannot, then let it be known that it is because there is none

    • Nick, theoretical physics might not be for you. These geniuses don’t get to see what they discover or often can’t even prove it but it works. Quoting Star Trek, “There’s 40 Billion Stars in our galaxy and there’s 40 Billion galaxies in the univers…” Alien life might or might not be visiting us but there’s no way earth is the only source of life in this ever expanding universe…

    • Evidence abounds! The galaxies are spilling evidence all over the universes.
      As for proof: Currently surmised ‘absence of proof’ is *not* proof of absence — anyway no worries while it might well be assumed your message is from Mecca & vetted by the Saudi princes — have a good ‘bung’ from their coffers.

  23. Gather all the Democrats on a ship send them that direction and they can start fresh and teach other world’s the true meaning of climate change. 👀

  24. Travel to that galaxy 3 billion light years away is possible right now.

  25. They want to get in touch with us about our car’s extended warranty.

  26. The signal has to be naturally occuring because it would take millions of years to get here and our planet is only 6000 years old… Right? KIDDING!!! LOL

  27. How long does it take for a radio signal to travel 3 billion light years?

    • You’re kidding right?
      Can’t travel faster than light so minimum 3 billion years…

    • •Along with ‘fast’ light waves as observed via the article — radio waves also being part of the electromagnetic spectrum are observed at the speed of light (±red shift or violet shift according to differential movement between ourvantage point versus the electromagnetic source.

  28. Yea I’m going with trying to reach us about our extended
    Auto warranty or better yet my student loans that I don’t have being forgiven! Let’s hang whatever law makers that took lobbyist money so telemarketers could call our cell numbers!!!! Who’s with me on this???

  29. I did my research with some advice from experts and I have concluded that after hours of calculation that We don’t know what it is.

  30. The Pearsonator | October 28, 2021 at 12:38 pm | Reply

    Firstly, Nick, don’t think you understand just how many stars and galaxies there are, there are more stars in our galaxy than grains of sand on a beach and more galaxies than grains of sand. To say there is no life anywhere else would be foolish, we have no proof yet no… Apart from the well known meteorite that is likely to have come from Mars that contains evidence of worm like microorganisms. Secondly, it takes light 3 billion years to travel a distance of 3 billion light years. A light year is the distance light travels in 1 year, what did you lots learn at school, oh wait I know the answer. Fingers crossed it is aliens, I hope it’s a signal from some sort of faster than light drive, would make sense if it was given off from more energy than our sub however, sadly it’s probably not.

  31. … who even gets an idea that advanced civilizations will communicate with radio waves…

  32. Who says we aren’t the more intelligent life form, everyone assumes aliens are smarter,hell they might not even be half as advanced as we are, just in case, we should leave them alone if aliens exist or we might get a war we don’t want

  33. 11-02-2021 Please communicate

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