Rapidly launching radio eruptions show warm space between galaxies

A newly discovered, rare and persistent fast-firing radio burst source – which occasionally sends an informative cosmic ping over 3.5 billion light-years away – helps unlock the secrets behind the burning space between galaxies. It says an international team of astronomers who have published their findings in the journal Nature.

Rapid radio eruption 20190520B – a productive repeated source of eruption – was first observed in June 2019 by the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in Ghizou province, southwest China. China. Astronomers generally consider this telescope to be the spiritual successor to the now defunct Arecibo Observatory, built by Cornell University in Puerto Rico.

After FAST found the eruption, the researchers then found the location of the eruption using the Very Large Array, Socorro, New Mexico.

What excites astronomers with repeated rapid radio eruptions (FRBs) – as they usually occur only once – is that these rapid rises give scientists a way to understand the confusing intergalactic medium, mysterious and millions of degrees.

“Exploring the intergalactic medium is really difficult,” said co-author Shami Chatterjee, a senior fellow in astronomy at Cornell. “The intergalactic medium is difficult to probe, and therefore rapid radio eruptions are exciting. Eruptions allow us to study the properties of the intergalactic medium. »

Join Chatterjee on Nature paper is James M. Cordes, professor of astronomy and Stella K. Ocker, PhD candidate in astronomy.

Co-author Di Li, is the lead researcher for FAST and the radio department of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The observatory has detected more than 100 pulsars and more than 5 FRBs.

Four outbreaks were detected in the first 24-second scan in 2019, according to the article. Between April and September 2020, during follow-up observations, FAST 75 detected.

Due to the rapidly recurring eruptions, astronomers believe that FRB 20190520B could be quite young. “It appears to reside in a complex plasma environment, as it expected in a young supernova remnant,” Chatterjee said. “So one possibility is that the very active source may be a newborn, and if that is the case, it paints an intriguing evolutionary picture of FRB sources where young sources of outbreaks are linked to sustained radio emissions.”

“The sustained emission fades as the burst recurrence rate decreases,” Chatterjee said. “This is still a hypothesis and we look forward to testing it with other examples of FRB iterations.”

Astronomers generally assume that FRBs only pass through a modest amount of gas (free electrons) in their host galaxies, making it easier to count electrons in the intergalactic medium. FRB 20190520B shows the opposite: it encountered much more gas in its host galaxy than scientists predicted, challenging previous assumptions.

Ultimately, astronomers want to know how the intergalactic medium is formed.

“We want to deconstruct the number of free electrons in the intergalactic medium because it has been extremely difficult to study,” Ocker said. “We do not know much about it.”

“This particular recurring FRB is behaving in extreme and surprising ways,” Ocker said.

Source of the story:

Materials supplied by Cornell University. Originally written by Blaine Friedlander, courtesy of the Cornell Chronicle. Note: The content can be edited for style and length.

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