Milky Way Radio Bursts Caused By Neutron Stars?

Magnetars look to be the cause of a certain group of fast radio bursts (FRB’s) located in the Milky Way. A Canadian-led team of astronomers and researchers from the University of Toronto and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics discovered the findings alongside 50 students, postdocs, and professors from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Fast Radio Burst Collaboration. The team originally detected the unusually intense radio burst from a nearby magnetar in the Milky Way on April 28th, 2020. 

What is a Magnetar? 

Imagine a neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field, one thousand trillion times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. And it is so intense that it heats the surface to 18 million degrees Fahrenheit.  This volatile star is known to erupt without warning, generating the most intense magnetic field observed in the Universe. This is a Magnetar. 

In the past some speculated that the FRB’s originated from an alien source such as an Alien spacecraft. However, today, a study was published in Nature from the Canadian team honing in on the intensity of the radio burst, three thousand times greater than that of any magnetar measured thus far. According to lead author of the study and Dunlap Institute Fellow Dr. Paul Scholz these findings offer the research team a better sense of what to observe in future findings. 

“Given the large gaps in energetics and activity between the brightest and most active FRB sources and what is observed for magnetars, perhaps younger, more energetic and active magnetars are needed to explain all FRB observations,” Scholz explains. 

A 10-Metre Telescope Aids in Discovery

A special portion of this discovery can be credited to astronomers at the Dunlap Institute, the University of Toronto, and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Physics (CITA). The radio burst was seen through not  the 10-Metre Telescope at the Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO) in addition to the CHIME telescope.

One of the graduate students at the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics was Tomás Cassanelli. He was responsible for leading in the re-development of ARO’s 10-metre telescope.

“Future simultaneous observations will also help us find the host galaxies of future FRBs.” stated Tomás Cassanelli.


JP London is an SLC based programmer and avid writer who has a passion for technology, photography, music and film. Born in Mumbai India, JP moved to San Francisco to study at UC Berkeley.

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