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Exploring the Enigma of Fast Radio Bursts: What Do Scientists Know About Them?

From stars to exoplanets, discoveries in our cosmic neighborhood are always interesting topics. Some of these discoveries are embedded in mystery- and fast radio bursts are one of them. Since they were discovered over a decade ago, many interesting things about fast radio bursts have been discovered. This article is about those amazing discoveries about fast radio bursts. Let’s dive right in!

What are fast radio bursts?

It’s essential to know what these bursts are before delving into what scientists know about them. Fast radio bursts were first noticed in archival data collected from several telescopes. 


Fast radio bursts are radiation blasts in the form of radio waves; these blasts last from milliseconds to a few seconds. Interestingly, they shine brighter than the entire combined light from every star in the galaxies they emerge from.

How powerful are fast radio bursts?

Fast radio bursts have so much energy, but how much energy are we talking about? Some fast radio bursts can produce as much energy as the sun produces in three Earth years.

Courtesy: Green Bank Observatory

However, since they come from billions of light-years away, their energy reduces as they travel. By the time telescopes from Earth spot them, the strength of their signal is like that of a phone signal from the Moon.

Where do these energetic bursts come from?

The first fast radio burst was spotted in 2001, emerging from the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Another fast radio burst was discovered within our galaxy in 2010.

Courtesy: Spaceaustralia

It has been discovered that fast radio bursts don’t have a specific direction. They pretty much come from everywhere and occur all over space. Most of the discovered fast radio bursts have originated from outside our galaxy.

What causes fast radio bursts?

The cause of fast radio bursts is another mystery; scientists don’t know what exactly causes them. However, one sure thing is that they must come from highly energetic or violent happenings. The two types of fast radio bursts are suspected to have different causes.


Repeating fast radio bursts might be caused by young, violent magnetars, a type of neutron star whose magnetic field can be 5,000 trillion times more powerful than Earth’s. Scientists suspect single-incident fast radio bursts are caused by white dwarfs, black holes, and neutron stars.

Do they have any significance to us on Earth?

Since they don’t seem to cause any harm to our planet, the next question is, ‘What good do fast radio bursts do for us?’ The most important significance of fast radio bursts is that they enhance our understanding of the universe.

Courtesy: Freepik

As their waves pass through matter, such as dust and clouds of gas, fast radio bursts carry a trace of things that happen within that matter. This means they help scientists gather information about the galaxies they originate from.

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