Little more than a decade ago, two astronomers discovered mysterious bursts of radio waves that seem to take place all over the sky, often outshining all the stars in a galaxy.
Since then, the study of these fast radio bursts, or FRBs, has taken off, and while we still don’t know what exactly they are or what causes them, scientists are now edging closer to some answers.
FRBs were first detected in 2007 by astronomers Duncan Lorimer and David Narkevic. While using the Parkes Observatory in Australia, the duo were stunned to witness an incredibly bright flash of radio waves coming from space. This strange event was called a Lorimer burst.
Since then, about 100 FRB discoveries have been announced. We’ve been able to pinpoint the location of some to other galaxies—none appear to take place inside the Milky Way—as well as see some happening in real-time and even witness FRBs that repeat. Despite numerous observations and plenty of data, we’re still at a loss to explain exactly what they are.
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