Three other mysterious signals — the famous Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) — were detected this month, and one of them breaks all records: it is the strongest ever observed by astronomers. It is, however, impossible, to tell where it comes from.
Of all the unexplained things in our universe, the fast radio bursts are probably the strangest. Powerful and fleeting, they are among the most elusive and explosive signals ever detected in space. Although they last only a few milliseconds, they generate as much energy as a hundred million suns!
For now, researchers have managed to capture 33 of these fast radio signals. A few months ago, a team of astronomers claimed to have identified the exact location of one of these signals, FRB 121102, apparently from a young neutron star – one of the densest objects in the Universe known, which forms after the collapse of a star. By combining the Hubble Space Telescope data with that of the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, researchers at Tohoku University in Japan were able to locate this star, located in the suburbs of a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years away from Earth.
FRB 121102 is an exception. These three new signals, detected on the 1st, 9th (for the brightest) and 11th of March by the Parkes Observatory radio telescope in Australia, have an unknown origin. Called FRB 180301, FRB 180309 and FRB 180311, these three signals are not likely to be repeated. If they do repeat themselves, they are simply too weak for us to detect. However, the recording of three bursts in a month remains an exceptional experience given the few cases detected so far.
An upcoming radio telescope project could soon change the game. The Square Kilometre Array, built in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, is a low-frequency opening network that will soon capture these lower-frequency signals – if they exist. The telescope will also cover a much wider area of the sky, and in more detail. This means that discoveries of fast radio bursts can be much more frequent in the future.