A bizarre fast radio burst came from a binary system, astronomers say

CNN —More than 15 years after fast radio bursts were discovered, new research has both unraveled and deepened the mystery of the sources of these deep space phenomena.
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are bright, powerful emissions of radio waves ranging from a fraction of a millisecond to a few milliseconds, each producing energy equivalent to the sun’s annual output.
Recent research suggested that some FRBs originate from magnetars, which are neutron stars with extremely powerful magnetic fields.
A fast radio burst found in the Milky Way was associated with a magnetar, according to a 2020 study.
But scientists haven’t yet pinpointed the origins of cosmological FRBs, which are very distant at billions of light-years away.
It’s a quandary that led an international team of scientists to see what it could learn from observations of nearly 1,900 bursts from an active fast radio burst source outside our galaxy called FRB 20201124A, according to a study published September 21 in the journal Nature.
An illustration depicts a fast radio burst (not the one detailed in the new studies).
Mark Garlick/Science Photo Librarary/scipho/APThe emissions associated with FRB 20201124A occurred for 82 hours over 54 days in the spring of 2021, making it one of the most active known fast radio bursts.
It was visible through the world’s largest radio telescope – the China-based Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or FAST.
“The FRB source has been there for a long time but has been dormant most of the time.
The radio burst’s complex, magnetized environment is within about an astronomical unit (the distance between Earth and the sun) from its source, the researchers found.
“Something else might be in the vicinity of the FRB engine, possibly a binary companion.”The modeling study should encourage further searches for fast radio burst signals from Be star/X-ray binaries, the authors said.
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