Distant Galaxy Emits 15 New Fast Radio Bursts
© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe
— “These are the highest frequency and widest bandwidth detections of bursts from
FRB 121102 obtained to-date. Additional fully calibrated full-Stokes analysis employing
coherent de-dispersion on raw voltage data is ongoing. These observations may indicate
FRB 121102 is currently in a heightened activity state, and follow-on observations
are encouraged, particularly at higher radio frequencies.”
- The Astronomer's Telegram, Aug. 29, 2017
— “Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin
at great distances (3 billion light-years), and we haven't identified a possible natural source
with any confidence. An artificial origin of fast radio bursts is worth contemplating and checking.”
- Avi Loeb, Ph.D., Chair of the Harvard University Astronomy Department
A sequence of 14 of the 15 detected bursts illustrate their dispersed spectrum and extreme variability.
The streaks across the colored energy plot are the bursts appearing at different times and different energies
because of dispersion caused by 3 billion years of travel through intergalactic space. In the top frequency
spectrum, the dispersion has been removed to show the 300 microsecond pulse spike. Capturing this
diverse set of bursts was made possible by the broad bandwidth that can be processed by the
Breakthrough Listen backend at the Green Bank Telescope. Spectrum by Breakthrough Listen.
August 30, 2017 Green Bank Telescope, West Virginia - “Circling one star among hundreds of billions, in one galaxy among a hundred billion more, in a universe that is vast and expanding ever faster — perhaps toward infinity. Are we alone? Are there habitable worlds in our galactic neighborhood? Can we make the great leap to the stars? And can we think and act together as one world in the cosmos?”
That quote is from the Breakthrough Listen Initiative at the University of California - Berkeley Dept. of Astronomy, which reports this week that fifteen new Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have been recorded from a galaxy some 3 billion miles from Earth. Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million program of astronomical observations in search of evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. It is a complete survey of the 1,000,000 (one million) nearest stars, the plane and center of our galaxy, and the 100 nearest galaxies. All data will be open to the public.
Also see Earthfiles with Harvard Astronomer Avi Loeb, Ph.D.:
“Repeating Fast Radio Bursts 2.5 Billion Light-Years
from Earth — Alien Intelligence?”
Breakthrough Listen and other initiatives began in 2015, when Russian billionaires Yuri and Julia Milner, now living in Los Altos Hills, California, founded Breakthrough Initiatives to explore the universe, seek scientific evidence of life beyond Earth and to encourage public debate from a planetary perspective.
Now comes headlines after a Breakthrough Listen press release on August 29, 2017:
“Green Bank Telescope observations of a dwarf galaxy three billion light-years away reveal 15 bursts of radio emissions emanating from the mysterious FRB 121102. This is the first time bursts from this source have been seen at these frequencies.
"In the early hours of Saturday, August 26, UC Berkeley Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Vishal Gajjar observed the location of FRB 121102 using the Breakthrough Listen backend instrument at the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The instrument accumulated 400 TB of data on the object over a five hour observation, observing the entire 4 to 8 GHz frequency band. This large dataset was searched for signatures of short pulses from the source over a broad range of frequencies, with a characteristic dispersion, or delay as a function of frequency, caused by the presence of gas in space between us and the source. The distinctive shape that the dispersion imposes on the initial pulse is an indicator of the amount of material between us and the source, and hence an indicator of the distance to the host galaxy.
Analysis by Dr. Gajjar and the Listen team revealed 15 new pulses from FRB 121102. As well as confirming that the source is in a newly active state, the high resolution of the data obtained by the Listen instrument will allow measurement of the properties of these mysterious bursts at a higher precision than ever possible before.
The observations also show for the first time that FRBs emit at higher frequencies (with the brightest emission occurring at around 7 GHz) than previously observed. The extraordinary capabilities of the Listen backend, which is able to record several gigahertz of bandwidth at a time, split into billions of individual channels, enable a new view of the frequency spectrum of FRBs, and should shed additional light on the processes giving rise to FRB emission.
When the recently-detected pulses left their host galaxy our entire Solar System was just 2 billion years old. Life on Earth consisted of only single-celled organisms, and it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve. Whether or not FRBs eventually turn out to be signatures of extraterrestrial technology, Breakthrough Listen is helping to push the frontiers of a new and rapidly growing area of our understanding of the Universe around us.”
The new results are reported in The Astronomer's Telegram (See Websites below) and will be described in further detail in an upcoming scientific journal article.
In a March 30, 2017, interview with Earthfiles Reporter and Editor Linda Moulton Howe, the Chair of the Harvard University Astronomy Department, Avi Loeb, Ph.D., said: “Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances (3 billion light-years), and we haven't identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin of fast radio bursts is worth contemplating and checking.”
For further information about mysteries of our universe, please see the Earthfiles Archive. A few of many in-depth reports are listed below from the more than 2,500 in-depth reports organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2017 ongoing.
The Astronomer's Telegram, August 29, 2017: http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=10675
Breakthrough Listen, Univ. of California-Berkeley:
Green Bank Telescope, West Virginia: http://greenbankobservatory.org
Earthfiles with Harvard Astronomer Avi Loeb, Ph.D, March 30, 2017.:
“Repeating Fast Radio Bursts 2.5 Billion Light-Years from Earth —