A Milky Way flash implicates magnetars as a source of fast radio bursts

Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 05:10 in Astronomy & Space

Astronomers think they’ve spotted the first example of a superbright blast of radio waves, called a fast radio burst, originating within the Milky Way. Dozens of these bursts have been sighted in other galaxies — all too far away to see the celestial engines that power them (SN: 2/7/20). But the outburst in our own galaxy, detected simultaneously by two radio arrays on April 28, was close enough to see that it was generated by a highly magnetic neutron star called a magnetar. That observation is a smoking gun that magnetars are behind at least some of the extragalactic fast radio bursts, or FRBs, that have defied explanation for over a decade (SN: 7/25/14). Researchers describe the magnetar’s radio burst online at arXiv.org on May 20 and May 21. “When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘No way. Too good to be true,’” says Ben Margalit, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved in the observations. “Just,...

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