A suite of radio antennas, including those making up Caltech’s STARE2 (Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2) project, together with other ground- and space-based observatories, have captured overwhelming evidence to help unlock the mysterious cause of cosmic blasts known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs.
These ultrafast radio flashes, first discovered in 2007, are known to originate from distant galaxies, but until now, no one could say with certainty what was causing them. In a series of studies published in the journal Nature, researchers demonstrate that the answer to the decade-long riddle likely involves a type of dead magnetic star called a magnetar.
Magnetars are spinning stellar remnants, left over from the explosion of massive stars. What makes magnetars stand out from other dead stars is their extreme magnetic fields: the magnetic field of a magnetar is more than 100 trillion times stronger than Earth’s own magnetic field. Magnetars were previously identified as possible sources of FRBs, but evidence for this theory was limited.
Source: “A Magnificent Burst from Within Our Galaxy”, California Institute of Technology