Source of the mysterious radio burst turns out to be a binary star system

Fast radio bursts have not ceased to amaze researchers with their mysterious nature for more than 15 years. New research has uncovered the mysterious sources of these phenomena from deep space, and  added more questions about their origin. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are bright, powerful radiation of radio waves ranging in duration from particles of a millisecond to several milliseconds, each of which produces energy equivalent to the annual radiation of the Sun.

Illustration of a quick burst. Source: Inverse

Recent studies have shown that some FRBs originated from magnetars, which are neutron stars with extremely powerful magnetic fields. According to a 2020 study, a fast radio burst detected in the Milky Way was associated specifically with a magnetar. But the origin of distant radio bursts at a distance of billions of light years remains a mystery.

An international group of scientists decided to find out which source is causing almost 1900 recorded fast radio bursts called FRB 20201124A outside our Galaxy. The emissions occurred 82 hours over 54 days in the spring of 2021, making it one of the most active known rapid bursts. It could be seen through the world’s largest radio telescope — the Chinese spherical radio telescope with a five-hundred-meter aperture, or FAST.

An illustration of the evolution of FRB 20201124A using a binary model. Photo: Nature

In a new study, scientists presented a physical model explaining the characteristics of FRB 20201124A. It has been found that a fast radio burst can be an analogue of the pulsed emissions of the galactic binary system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883, containing the magnetar PSR B1259-63 and Be-a star that is hotter, larger and rotates faster than the Sun. Be-stars are very hot objects of spectral class B with an effective temperature from 10,000 to 30,000 K (9,726.85°C — 29,726.85°C) and luminosity of class III to V.

The study is published in the journal Nature.

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