Astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other research centers have detected a strange, persistent radio signal from a distant galaxy that appears to ‘outperform’ with surprising regularity, as detailed in a study published in Nature and revealed by German media outlet Deutsche Welle.
The signal is classified as a fast radio burst (FRB), an extremely intense emission of radio waves of unknown astrophysical origin that typically lasts a few milliseconds at most.
However, this new signal lasts up to three seconds, about 1,000 times longer than the average FRB. In this context, the team detected bursts of radio waves that repeat every 0.2 seconds with a distinct periodic pattern, similar to a heartbeat.
FRB 20191221A, as ranked by the researchers, is currently the longest-lived with the clearest periodic pattern ever detected. The source of the signal is located in a distant galaxy, several billion light years from Earth.
Its origin remains a mystery, although astronomers suspect the signal could come from a radio pulsar or magnetar, both of which are neutron stars, the very dense, fast-spinning cores of giant stars.
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