Astronomers discover the cause of fast radio bursts

In recent times, astronomers have made an intriguing connection between two seemingly unrelated cosmic phenomena: fast radio bursts and the variations in the rotational speed of magnetars. This breakthrough revelation suggests that both of these events can be attributed to the destruction of an asteroid by a magnetar.

Fast radio bursts have puzzled astronomers for years. These transient bursts of radio energy last for less than a second and are incredibly powerful, considering they originate from distant galaxies. The elusive origin of fast radio bursts remained a mystery until astronomers detected one occurring within our own galaxy, leading them to identify magnetars as the probable cause.

Magnetars, a unique type of pulsar, are neutron stars that spin rapidly. During their formation, neutron stars can possess exceptionally strong magnetic fields, ranking as the most powerful in the known universe. As a result, these magnetized neutron stars are aptly named magnetars.

The link between fast radio bursts and magnetars became evident when astronomers observed a magnetar experiencing glitches in its rotational speed. Magnetars typically maintain highly precise rotational speeds, but occasionally these speeds can suddenly shift, either slowing down or accelerating. Interestingly, astronomers noted a glitch in a magnetar occurring at the same time as a fast radio burst was emitted. Given the immense energy harbored by magnetars, they hold the potential to explain the origins of fast radio bursts.

So, the recent discoveries suggest a compelling connection between the destructive forces of magnetars, the occurrence of fast radio bursts, and the cataclysmic destruction of asteroids. These findings shed new light on these enigmatic cosmic phenomena and open up exciting avenues for further research and exploration.

In a recent publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a group of astrophysicists has put forward a compelling hypothesis linking asteroids to the phenomena of fast radio bursts and magnetar glitches.

Magnetars, as remnants of massive stars, are likely to be accompanied by a population of asteroids and debris within their solar systems. These asteroids are believed to be quite prevalent around magnetars since remnants of their original planetary systems persist. When an asteroid ventures too close to a magnetar, it experiences the combined effect of the magnetar’s intense magnetic field and its tremendously powerful gravitational force.

Under the researchers’ proposed scenario, if an asteroid gets too close to the magnetar, the gravitational force can tear it apart. As the asteroid disintegrates, its angular momentum needs to be conserved. If the resulting debris follows a trajectory aligned with the magnetar’s rotation, it imparts an increase in the magnetar’s rotational speed, leading to a glitch. Conversely, if the debris moves in the opposite direction, it causes a slight decrease in the magnetar’s rotational speed, resulting in what is referred to as an anti-glitch.

The fragmented remnants of the asteroid become entangled within the magnetar’s extraordinarily strong magnetic fields. This entanglement causes the magnetic fields to become twisted and releases stored energy in the form of a fast radio burst.

Moreover, the surviving debris eventually descends onto the magnetar’s surface, generating distinct flares that hold potential for detection. This comprehensive scenario presents a plausible explanation of how magnetars can be linked to the occurrence of fast radio bursts, demonstrating that even the smallest celestial objects within a solar system, such as asteroids, can yield significant impacts.

These findings shed new light on the intricate mechanisms behind these cosmic phenomena and highlight the substantial influence that seemingly insignificant objects can exert in the vastness of the universe.

Source: Universe Today

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