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8 new, repetitive, fast radio bursts offer new opportunities for insights



Fast radio bursts are one of the most puzzling phenomena in astrophysics. A new discovery of eight new sources for them could help scientists figure out what causes these intense bursts of energy emanating from distant galaxies.

The newly discovered outbreaks originate from repetitive sources, ie they have been observed several times. Previously, only two repetitive fast bursts had been observed. The new observations suggest that recurrent outbreaks are more common than previously thought.

"It was certainly on the table that [repeaters] was quite unusual and you would not see many of them," said Deborah Good, a co-author-author of the study and Ph.D. Student at the University of British Columbia. "Having eight more sources is a good sign that it's not very rare to have a repeater."






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Fast radio bursts are intense flashes of electromagnetic energy that last only fractions of a second. Finding repeaters is valuable to understand their nature. Currently, it is believed that fast bursts of radio generated outside the Milky Way are caused by a kind of compact object – such as a neutron star, a pulsar, or a black hole – but scientists are not sure what mechanism drives the bursts.

"Anything you can think of as a model for fast bursts of radio must either explain why repeaters and one-off effects are completely different objects, or more likely to be able to simply explain the repetitive shock" said Good.

The bursts were recorded using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, CHIME for short, a telescope near Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. The experiment continuously maps the sky to radio frequencies and typically observes the entire northern sky every day. The telescopes collect much more information than can be analyzed or stored, so that automated computer algorithms continuously search the data for interesting events and published on the preprint site arXiv, observations were seen from August 2018 to March 2019, as CHIME was watching his most important scientific campaign started.

After analyzing the data, the scientists established a unique structure in the signal of some repeaters. During the burst, the frequency of the signal decreased slightly, similar to the two previous repeaters. Why this happens and whether it is something that occurs only in fast radio misfires, is still unclear.

"It may be that only repeaters have this structure, but not all repeaters have this structure." Gut said. "It's still an open question."

It is possible that another source or mechanism is responsible for the drift signal in these repeaters, but it is too early to say. Within the scientific community it is still debated whether the individual sources are different sources or whether they are only repeaters whose repetition has not yet been observed.

galaxies to say something about one of the [the leading] theories, but if we find more repeaters and pinpoint their positions in their host galaxies, we will be able to distinguish between different theories, "said Emily Petroff Astronomer at the Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam, who was not involved in the new study.

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