What Are Fast Radio Bursts? Mysterious Signals From Space Explained

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It started in 2001, a brilliant burst of light breached the skies. The event had released as much power as 500 million suns. Just a few milliseconds later, the signal had vanished. Astronomers call these powerful flashes Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).

Since 2001, about 30 have been identified. But, new estimates suggest one is happening almost every second. According to Dr. Avi Loeb, professor of science at Harvard University, "In the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee, hundreds of FRBs may have gone off somewhere in the universe."

The origins of FRBs continue to elude explanation. But there's one source unlike any other that may hold the key to solving the mystery. It's called FRB 121102. It's the only known FRB that repeats. Astronomers have observed over 150 flashes from FRB 121102. Its repeated signals suggest FRBs aren't from a single explosion. Rather, they could be from an unusual object called a magnetar. Magnetars are highly-dense stars with powerful magnetic fields. Whatever the reason, FRBs are proof there's still so much more to learn about our universe.

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