Spectacular cosmic radio burst caught in real time, first time

A huge yet short lived burst of radio waves has been identified for the first time ever. These fast momentary radio bursts are known as blitzars.

Blitzars usually happen for a millisecond but throws out almost equal amount of energy as the sun does in a million years, and everything takes place within one tight band of radio-frequency waves.
The source of blitzars is still unknown, but the system that results in such blitzars must be enormous, cataclysmic and up to 5.5 billion light years away, said Emily Petroff of Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.


There are different opinions about the probable source of blitzars. It can be a flare from a magnetar with excessively strong magnetic field. Another possible source could be the collapse of a magnum sized neutron star that must have given way to a black hole long time back but with a great spin, that relativity made it seem lighter.
Till date, nine blitzars have been reported with their first discovery in 2007. But each one of them was identified long after the original event. But in an interesting turn of event, Petroff caught one in the act using the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, reported New Scientist.

“This is a major breakthrough,” says Duncan Lorimer of West Virginia University in Morgantown, who was part of the team that discovered the first fast radio burst.

Within seven hours, other telescopes across the globe looked at the source which was situated near the constellation Aquarius. No afterglow was found by anyone of them. This finding basically rules out the possibility of long gamma-ray bursts or supernovae acting as the source, added Petroff.


The data from Parkes Telescope showed the waves appear to be circularly polarized. “It’s something nobody has ever measured before,” Petroff says.

But the interpretation of this will be difficult. The identification of the source will help to calculate the density of the interstellar medium for the first time, Petroff was quoted saying.