Jan 10, 2018

Scientists trace the journey of mysterious radio bursts

The Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia monitored fast radio burst (FRB) 121102. Photo: Green Bank Observatory.

Scientists honed in on the galaxy where mysterious fast radio bursts (FRB) seem to be originating. In just a few milliseconds, FRBs give off roughly the same amount of energy as the Sun does in a day, according to a New York Times report.

Why it matters: At least 30 FRBs have been found since 2007, per the Times, and scientists don't know what causes them. But, they've gotten more information about the environment around them after tracing a particularly repetitive burster called FRB121102 to a galaxy that's 3 billion light years away.

What happened: FRB121102 looked to have been made "in a magnetic field at least thousands of times more powerfully than normally seen in space," the Times reports. The Washington Post reports its flares are "500 times as twisted as any other burst scientists have seen," which also supports the theory that they originate near an intense magnetic field — like the one produced by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy or a supernova.

Other potential sources include:

  • For FRB121102, the Post reports that scientists believe it could be surrounded by "a highly magnetized cocoon of material."
  • Extraterrestrial intelligence and "solar-powered alien craft," but per the Post, an E.T. research initiative focused on FRB121102 "revealed no extraterrestrial voyagers."
  • A neutron star could be producing the flare, but Simon Chatterjee at Cornell, who tracked FRB121102, told the Times "it would have to be unlike anything else seen in our galaxy."

What's next: Sarah Burke-Spolaor, a West Virginia University astrophysicist who was involved in research on FBR121102, told the Post the latest discovery on the burst "will help 'steer the field.'"

Go deeper

DOJ watchdog finds flaws in FBI surveillance process beyond Page application

Carter Page. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Justice Department inspector general found errors in 29 out of 29 randomized FBI applications for acquiring wiretap warrants through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, according to a report released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The broad DOJ audit of the FISA program stems from a damning investigation into the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which uncovered "serious performance failures" by some FBI officials during the Russia probe. The IG's final findings come as Congress debates whether to renew the authority it grants to the FISA courts.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 838,061 — Total deaths: 41,261 — Total recoveries: 174,115.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 177,452 — Total deaths: 3,440 — Total recoveries: 6,038.
  3. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with other health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  4. Federal government latest: The White House and other institutions are observing several models to better understand and prepare cities for when the coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S.
  5. In Congress: New York Rep. Max Rose deploys to National Guard to help coronavirus response.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Misinformation in the coronavirus age.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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U.S. coronavirus updates: White House studies models projecting virus peak

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The White House and other institutions are observing several models to better understand and prepare cities for when the coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S.

The state of play: The coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S. in two weeks, but many states like Virginia and Maryland will see their individual peaks well after that, according to a model by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health