Opening in The History of Fast Radio Burst

Categories: Black HolesHistory

In 2007, an American scientist called Duncan Lorimer and his student, David Narkevic, made a huge breakthrough for discovery. These people didn’t realize that they discovered the first-ever Fast Radio Burst. This burst only lasts for a few milliseconds.

Such discovery was made accidentally when Lorimer and his team was analyzing the pulsar survey from Magellan Clouds that was recorded in 2001 by Parkes Telescope in Australia. Since then more FRBs were detected, the most recent one occurred in 2018. All bursts last only a few milliseconds. Until now, no one ever confirmed where those burst are from. In order to explain what properties of FRB are, here are the common properties for FRB:  They may be extremely powerful. According to Houser (2018), this ray can weight up to five hundred million solar energy. However, the first burst discovered in 2007 (recorded in 2001) was about 30 jansky.

If a FRB occurs on the other side of the Milky Way, it will severely disrupt our radio, TV, wifi and cellphone signal.

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The consequence for such disruption could be very serious if a beam of FRB emits very close to the Earth. They last only a few milliseconds. The one which was discovered by Lorimer was only 5 milliseconds.  It may occur repeatedly and randomly. One of the FRBs firstly detected in 2012 occurred again in 2015. The scientists started tracking the origin for that signal. They even searched it again in the whole universe in order to increase the chance to find it. Because of repeating occurrence, physicists managed to track such burst to be a dwarf galaxy of 3 million lys from the Earth.

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Some people started suspecting this signal could be a long-distance call from highly intelligent aliens. They occur everywhere around the universe. There are estimated that over a thousand beams arriving on Earth per day!

Also, all of them are very far away from Milky way/ Until now, the origin of FRB is still unknown and not entirely confirmed. The scientists are trying to narrow the sources. Several candidates have been selected. It ranges from Pulsar, Neutron stars, black holes, Supernovae, Magnetar and even quasars. The most acceptable and possible candidate who emits FRB is Magnetar. Belodolodov (2017) suggests that Magnetar was powered by its own magnetic energy rather than traditional rotation energy. It is one special neutron star that can keep giving away lots of magnetic energy in flares from its core. It is young and ejects many bursts in milliseconds. In the simplest explanation, FRB (121102 for a famous example) was formed when Magnetar gives off too much magnetic energy.

Then FRB was heated and emitted. At the same time, magnetic energy excites nearby internal wave and transform into the magnetic wind. This is the same principle when Sun randomly emits solar winds, at which each time is very powerful. Of course, that emission is much stronger for a magnetar. Therefore, FRBs are very hard to track because most of them only occurred once only. And they occurred randomly too. This makes it scientists very hard to track their origins, except FRB121102, which occurred once again in 2015, six times in 2016 and then fifteen times in 2017. However, there are several theories for the explanation where those FRBs are from. One of the most possible theories is from Neutron stars. Reimer points out when neutron stars are about to die, their magnetic field will be torn apart. The charged particles inside the stars will shoot out in milliseconds. The projectile may be the FRB we are looking for.

He also mentioned that FRBs are emitted when Black holes or neutron stars start merging together and releasing very huge energy. In the case of FRB121102, such occurrence is also very unique because the burst is extremely polarized. It beam was bent when it travels through a magnetic field. By studying this unique characteristic, physicists would like to learn more the closest origin of that beam (Starr 2018). Even if several theories are still in use, the origin of FRB121102 is most likely from a normal Neutron star. In 2015, a PhD Student from Swinburne University called Emily Petroff discovered a FRB live using Parkes Radio Telescope. A follow-up observation carried out. It was never been observed in instant way. Petroff pointed out the origin from this ray was either Black holes or Neutron stars.

However, distance and origin are the most challenging to her and her team. Even though she finally found out that burst was around 5.5 million lightyears away, the origin was still unknown but she kept monitoring until the next possible repeating burst occurred again. There is a misconception between Fast Radio Burst (FRB) and Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB). And some people simply think those terms are interchangeable. In fact, they are two completely different phenomena but they are related. According to Zheng (2013), a traceable signature of X-ray and Gamma-ray was observed before an initial FRB was emitted. The event rate of FRB is much higher than GRB and 3 times higher for Magnitude.

However, there are very similar between FRB and GRB that they are both from very far away (Outside from our galaxy), only a few milliseconds for the duration, containing high energy and are emitted when blackholes-blackholes, magnetars-magnetars, neutron stars-neutron stars or any combination merge together. Finally, both rays can only be tracked down with the help of very advanced telescopes. In other words, it is difficult to distinguish which rays they are without spending lots of effort and time. Using a magnetar as an example. From the graph above, GRB occurred first and then FRB. Here, GRB has the most amount of X-ray. It suddenly drops to the half. Probably this is due to the presence of the magnetar. Note there is a very steep drop of the curve as time proceeds. This may symbolize the magnetars die and become black holes.

FRB emits. The dashed curve means external shock emission. This concludes that FRB is weaker but more frequently than GRB. Hence FRB is more difficult to be detected. From the image below, a random magnetic burst occurs on the right side of a magnetar! This may help explain the origin and formation of FRBs. Since there are so many FRBs emitting randomly and most of them will not appear again, physicists decided to design a telescope mainly designed for RRB detection in August 2017. That telescope calls CHIME. Located in Okalangan, BC. On July 25, 2018, this telescope did a good job by picking up a FRB far away from Earth. Such FRB is very weak with only 500Mhz. And it was called FRB180725.  Such newly built telescope has several advantages because of its large surface area with numerous antennae, extreme strong broadband (up to 13 terabits per second) and excellent point of view.

However, it has no moving parts, Its measurement and detection always go real-time. If it detects something, especially FRBs, the community of Astrophysics will be alerted immediately worldwide. Another feature is that telescope is operated by a computer that is used for competitive gaming (aka e-sport) using multiple extremely powerful graphic cards! In conclusion, FRB is a very new object that has been existing many years ago but it was only firstly detected accidentally in 2007. Until now, the exact cause and origin are unknown. Magnetar is the most possible candidate for causing FRB to occur, even if neutron stars and black holes are good candidates. It occurs only a few milliseconds and most of the FRBs will not occur again, except the famous 121102.

Physicists around the world are building more advanced telescope mainly or solely designed for listening FBRs or other unknown types of energy. Each FRB is extremely powerful, they act like EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) grenades in nature. If one emission occurs close to earth, all Satellites, electronic devices will shut down immediately and globally. Fortunately, all FRBs we have known occur very far away and outside Milky Way. In the future, we hope we can learn more about FRBs by studying more about their properties, especially their origins. Right now, we just have to wait and look out more repeating occurrences of FRB just like 121102 and new FRB.


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Opening in The History of Fast Radio Burst. (2022, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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