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Scientists Capture Unusual “Heartbeat” Signal from a Very Distant Galaxy

According to scientists, there aren't many known objects in the cosmos that emit these strictly periodic signals

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

UNITED STATES: A strange radio signal that frequently radiates from the depths of the universe, “like a heartbeat,” has been found by scientists. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States was shocked by the frequency and strength of the radio blasts.

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The signal is categorised as a fast radio burst (FRB), which are powerful radio wave burst with no recognised source.

This is the most distinct and longest periodic pattern investigated by researchers at MIT and other institutions to date.

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The signal, named FRB 20191221A, lasts a lot longer than a regular FRB, in fact, around 1,000 times longer, — which prompts speculation about its possible origin.

The typical duration of an FRB is a few milliseconds, but FRB 20191221A can last up to three seconds, with radio waves repeating every 0.2 seconds in what the astronomers refer to as a “clear periodic pattern.”

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The origin of the signal

The reason is probably that the signal comes from a unique sort of star, even though unusual radio signals from space sometimes spark heated speculation about possible alien communication.

According to astronomers, the neutron star, which is made up of the collapsing cores of giant stars that have gone supernova, is thought to be the source of the signal.

The researchers speculate that it might be brought on by a radio pulsar or magnetar star, both of which are varieties of neutron stars and have been published in the journal Nature.

According to MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research’s Daniele Michilli “there are not many entities in the cosmos that emit strictly periodic signals.”

“Radio pulsars and magnetars, which revolve and emit a beamed output akin to a lighthouse, are examples that we are aware of in our own galaxy. We also believe this new signal might be a magnetar or pulsar on steroids.”

The first FRB

Since the first FRB was found in 2007, hundreds of more comparable radio wave bursts have been found throughout the universe.

The great majority of FRBs found so far were single events that vanished within a brief period.

In 2019, Michilli noticed the unique data collected by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, which led to the discovery of FRB 20191221A. (CHIME).

More signals from the source, which the team believes might be used as an astrophysical clock, are being sought after.

They may study the frequency of the bursts and how they change as the source moves away from Earth to determine the rate at which the universe is expanding.

‘A million times brighter’: FRB 20191221A

The radio bursts from FRB 20191221A were compared to those in our own galaxy. According to the astronomers, the pulse from FRB 20191221A seemed to be a million times brighter.

Michilli speculates that the light flashes might be caused by a far-off radio pulsar or magnetar that, for whatever reason that is still unknown to science, decided to unleash a series of spectacular bursts within a fleeting three-second window that CHIME was fortunate enough to observe.

Michilli stated, “CHIME has identified several FRBs with various characteristics. We’ve found some that dwell in quite turbulent clouds, while others appear to be in pure surroundings. We can infer from the characteristics of this new signal that a very turbulent plasma cloud must surround this source.”

Michilli continued by saying that the discovery begs the question of what might have produced such a strong signal that had never been observed before.

“Future telescopes promise to locate thousands of FRBs per month, and then we may find many more of these periodic signals,” he said.

Also Read: NASA Launches a New Initiative That Allows People to Become a Jovian Vortex Hunter


  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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