Fast radio burst or FRB signals are the elusive rockstars of the space world, and scientists have found the first one in our galaxy. Milky Way represent!
Originally discovered back in 2001, it wasn’t until 2007 that astrophysicist Duncan Lorimer actually took notice of these super fast 5 millisecond blips. The aptly named FRBs were so brief that no one before had really thought to look into it.
Thankfully, Lorimer’s team at West Virginia University saw through the aloof speed and noted that this intense but short signal came from somewhere far, far away. Way outside our galaxy and into the unknown.
So unknown that we’ve had basically no idea what causes this or the dozens more FRBs scientists have since discovered. Researchers can tell us the galaxies they come from, but not the actual source.
This has of course led to some super cool speculation including weird phenomena, aliens, and all sorts. It’s a science fiction dream that we might be able to shatter very soon.
Finding an FRB in the Milky Way meant scientists were able to better study this residential radio burst. Researchers have come to understand that this particular FRB, dubbed FRB 200428 was the most energetic radio pulse the Milky Way has ever seen, and that it comes from one of only 30 known magnetars.
Magnetars are dead neutron stars with magnetic fields around 1,000 times stronger than regular neutron stars. This is why they give off such strong energy bursts which we have dubbed FRBs.
But it’s not all over for sci-fi writers yet. Our local FRB 200428 is pretty weak compared to most other FRBs we’ve found, so it’s still doubtful that all FRBs are caused by magnetars.
It doesn’t help that some FRBs do weird things like repeat or have patterns, and most magnetars don’t actually give off radio emissions.
We learn new and exciting things about space every day, like how the moon has more water than we thought, or how we can get high speed internet connections using satellites. So who can really say what's next for anomalies like FRBs?
Hopefully if any of this does turn out to be aliens dropping sick beats, we can get some of our shit sorted before we meet them. As it stands my embarrassment would override my excitement for alien life.