"When we reported previous year that one of these objects was repeating, that - in one go - knocked out about half of those models, because for this one source, at least, we knew it couldn't be explosive". After all the investigations, the studies showed that the source galaxy was both a dwarf one and also one that is very far from Earth.
One was that they were coming from a black hole at the centre of the dwarf galaxy which was feeding on matter, and every time a jet from that hole blasted away a cloud of plasma a flash of radio waves was produced. But while those explanations may fit an ordinary FRB, FRB 121102 is repeating, and that brings a new wrinkle into the equation.
Burke-Spolaor added that they don't know yet if all FRBs are created equal, as so far FRB 121102 is the only repeater. Because the galaxy doesn't contain a high number of stars and because most of those stars seem relatively young, it likely doesn't contain a high number of neutron stars, making this scenario less likely. "Lots of stars, lots of galaxies, lots of stuff", said Chatterjee.
In addition to the FRBs, the radio telescopes detected a weaker, but continuous, radio emission from within 100 light years of the flashes.
For something as powerful and puzzling as the fast radio burst (FRB) detected and tracked by an worldwide team of researchers, it turns out that its birthplace is surprisingly puny.
The location is dubbed FRB 121102, after the first FRB detected there.
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To help solve the mystery, researchers from various USA universities used the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico to figure out the origin of a flash known as FRB 121102. Unlike all the others, however, one FRB, discovered in November of 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has recurred numerous times - a pattern first detected in late 2015 by McGill PhD student Paul Scholz.
Now though, scientists may finally have been able to pinpoint exactly where one of these FRBs are coming from.
Given that FRBs flash for just a few milliseconds, pinpointing the source of these enigmatic bursts is easier said than done. "It's got a detectable signal of very particular colors of hydrogen, oxygen and other elements - but Doppler-shifted", said Chatterjee, explaining that the shifting wavelengths denote cosmic expansion and provide clues for the source distance.
Their brevity, combined with the fact that it's hard to pinpoint their location, have ensured their origins remain enigmatic. They immediately notified scientists at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico who, in turn, started studying the waves with a network of 27 radio telescopes spread over a 20-mile-wide area. They captured nine radio images of bursts, allowing them to "pin it down to an absolutely tiny patch of the sky" for the first time. "That's surprising. One would generally expect most FRBs to come from large galaxies which have the largest numbers of stars and neutron stars - remnants of massive stars".
"This discovery may hint at links between FRBs and those two kinds of events", Tendulkar said.
Rising just ahead of the winter constellation Orion, FRB 121102 has a home in the constellation Auriga.
"This phenomenon is so well-tuned to explore the universe". Neutron stars are dense objects that form when a star explodes and the remaining material collapses on itself.