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First-Ever Radio Signal Hits Earth From Inside Our Galaxy

And scientists think they've found the source
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2020 2:25 PM CDT

(Newser) – Intrigued by radio signals from outer space? Scientists have spotted a fast radio burst from inside the Milky Way—the first ever from our own galaxy—and say it might solve the riddle of other such bursts from the cosmos, Science Alert reports. This signal was discovered Tuesday and reported in the Astronomer's Telegram by Paul Scholz of the University of Toronto in Canada. The report says the burst came from a kind of neutron star about 30,000 light-years away called a magnetar. Like other neutron stars, magnetars are collapsed cores of huge stars, but they're also different, with magnetic fields about 1,000 times more powerful. And those fields are engaged in a gigantic wrestling match with the gravitational force trying to hold the star together.

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That tussle creates a tension that occasionally erupts into massive magnetar flares—and just such a flare might have triggered the latest fast radio burst. The FRB also included an X-ray counterpart, which adds to the case because magnetars emit X-ray radiation (which would be undetectable in extragalactic FRBs). "We now have direct evidence that a known galactic magnetar has produced a radio burst that is getting close to as bright as some known extragalactic FRB sources," says scientist Jason Hessels, per Newsweek. Which leaves him wondering about other FRBs, which have been reaching Earth for over a decade: "Are they all bursting magnetars, or do FRBs come from a variety of different origins?" The answer to that is a work in progress. (Read more Milky Way stories.)

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