Radio signals from another galaxy


Lorimer Burst continues to baffle scientists

It came from a galaxy far, far away. A single, sudden burst of radio waves. And then it was gone. The so-called ‘Lorimer’ burst was spotted in 2007 — and has been baffling scientists ever since. “This is something that’s completely unprecedented,” Duncan Lorimer, the West Virginia University astrophysicist who made the discovery told Space at the time. Today, the ‘burst’ is not alone. Indeed, four more identical flares have been observed, according to Popular Mechanics. “You have to look at the sky for a very long time to find these,” British astrophysicist Dan Thornton, who observed the fresh, fleeting bursts, told the magazine. “The reason that we’re detecting them now is we’ve simply looked long enough.” Thornton and his University of Manchester team published their findings in Science magazine, noting “the bursts’ properties indicate that they are of celestial rather than terrestrial origin.” The cause of the flares, which appear for only scant milliseconds, remains unknown. But researchers suggest an “explosive event” may be involved, as the bursts appear to be one-time events. While the exact origins of the radio waves are also difficult to pinpoint in the vast expanse that is space, scientists are certain that the signals travelled a staggering distance. Thornton suggests they took half the universe’s lifespan to get here. And, as Science News reports, they disappeared almost instantly upon arrival. What may yet linger, however, is the wealth of data these flickering heralds bring. Scientists say the bursts may shine light on the vast, previously unknown tracts of space that separate the galaxies. “Staggeringly, we estimate there could be one of these flashes going off every ten seconds somewhere in the sky,” research team member Simon Johnston said in Global Times. “With the ability to detect these very fast sources we are opening up a whole new area of astrophysics.”


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