Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts Are Finally Coming into Focus | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Mysterious Fast Radio Bursts Are Finally Coming into Focus

Nobody noticed when an Australian radio telescope captured a fleeting explosion of light coming from somewhere far beyond the Milky Way in 2001. Records of the powerful flare-up—which produced as much energy in a few thousandths of a second as the sun does in a day—sat unseen for more than half a decade until a group of scientists sifting through archival data spotted the stupendous eruption—a so-called fast radio burst (FRB).

Such enigmatic explosions are no longer ignored. Researchers have found them happening at least 800 times per day all over the sky yet are still in the dark as to what causes them. As one of the most active topics in astrophysics, FRBs have lately seen a slew of groundbreaking and sometimes at-odds findings, with papers that reshape the field regularly appearing in the literature. Although the overall view remains murky, in just the past year, a clearer picture of these strange entities has started to emerge.

“I think we’re closer to understanding what some FRBs are,” says Ziggy Pleunis, an astrophysicist at the University of Toronto. “But as we’ve been going on this quest, new discoveries have led to new questions.”