Scientists have known about these energetic pulses — called fast radio bursts — for about 13 years and have seen them coming from outside our galaxy, which makes it harder to trace them back to what’s causing them. Making it even harder is that they happen so fast, in a couple of milliseconds.
Then this April, a rare but considerably weaker burst coming from inside our own Milky Way galaxy was spotted by two dissimilar telescopes: one a California doctoral student’s set of handmade antenna s, which included actual cake pans, the other a $20 million Canadian observatory.
They tracked that fast radio burst to a weird type of star called a magnetar that’s 32,000 lightyears from Earth, according to four studies in Wednesday’s journal Nature.
It was not only the first fast radio burst traced to a source, but the first emanating from our galaxy. Astronomers say there could be other sources for these bursts, but they are now sure about one guilty party: magnetars.
Magnetars are incredibly dense neutron stars, with 1.5 times the mass of our sun squeezed into a space the size of Manhattan. They have enormous magnetic fields that buzz and crackle with energy, and sometimes flares of X-rays and radio waves burst from them, according to McGill University astrophysicist Ziggy Pleunis, a co-author of the Canadian study.
The magnetic field around these magnetars “is so strong any atoms nearby are torn apart and bizarre aspects of fundamental physics can be seen,” said astronomer Casey Law of the California Institute of Technology, who wasn’t part of the research.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Apple Eases App Store Rules Again, to Allow Outside Signups
Apple is relaxing rules to allow some app developers such as Spotify, Netflix and digital publishers to include an outside link so users can sign up for paid subscription accounts.
Australia Wants Facebook Held Liable for Anonymous Comments
Australia’s prime minister described social media as a “coward’s palace” and warned that digital platforms including Facebook should be held liable for defamatory comments posted anonymously.
UNITED AIRLINES WILL ADD NEW INTERNATIONAL ROUTES NEXT YEAR
United Airlines said Thursday it will launch its biggest expansion of transatlantic service next year, a vote of confidence that international travel will rebound from the depths of the pandemic.
CHINA SET TO SEND 3 ASTRONAUTS ON LONGEST CREWED MISSION YET
China is preparing to send three astronauts to live on its space station for six months — a new milestone for a program that has advanced rapidly in recent years.
US REGULATORS SEEK ANSWERS FROM TESLA OVER LACK OF RECALL
U.S. safety investigators want to know why Tesla didn’t file recall documents when it updated Autopilot software to better identify parked emergency vehicles, escalating a simmering clash between the automaker and regulators.
WILLIAM SHATNER, TV'S CAPT. KIRK, BLASTS INTO SPACE
Hollywood’s Captain Kirk, 90-year-old William Shatner, blasted into space Wednesday in a convergence of science fiction and science reality, reaching the final frontier aboard a ship built by JeffBezos’ Blue Origin company.
MICROSOFT SHUTTING DOWN LINKEDIN IN CHINA
Microsoft is shutting down its LinkedIn service in China later this year after internet rules were tightened by Beijing, the latest American tech giant to lessen its ties to the country.
HYDROPOWER DECLINE ADDS STRAIN TO POWER GRIDS IN DROUGHT
After water levels at a California dam fell to historic lows this summer, the main hydropower plant it feeds was shut down. At the Hoover Dam in Nevada — one of the country’s biggest hydropower generators — production is down by 25%. If extreme drought persists, federal officials say a dam in Arizona could stop producing electricity in coming years.
INSTACART CEO SAYS ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING HAS ROOM TO GROW
When the pandemic hit the U.S. last year, grocery delivery company Instacart suddenly became a lifeline for millions of consumers. Sales volumes skyrocketed; in one month, the company added 300,000 drivers to keep up with its orders.
WITH HUMOR, VENOM 2 LEANS INTO RELATIONSHIPS
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” is best when it’s not trying to be a comic book movie.