Technological advances have allowed scientists to pick up these mysterious signals from space, which can be seen as radio waves.
Fast radio bursts, as they’re called, were first discovered in 2007. They can travel billions of light years but usually only last a thousandth of a second.
The cause of these bursts is currently unknown, but researchers at the University of Tokyo said the prevailing theory is that at least some are emitted by neutron stars, which form when a supergiant star collapses. Magnetars, which are neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields, have been observed to emit fast radio bursts.
Previous studies, according to a news release, noted similarities between the energy distribution of repeat fast radio bursts and that of earthquakes and solar flares. The University of Tokyo’s new study, published in “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society,” found distinct differences between the bursts and flares, though they did notice several similarities between fast radio bursts and earthquakes
This supports the idea that the fast radio bursts are caused by “starquakes.”
According to Space.com, the theory is that starquakes happen when the surface of a neutron star experiences a sudden shift. As their name suggests, starquakes are similar to earthquakes.
It’s a discovery that could help scientists better understand earthquakes, the behavior of high-density matter and aspects of nuclear physics, the news release said.
“By studying starquakes on distant ultradense stars, which are completely different environments from Earth, we may gain new insights into earthquakes,” Professor Tomonori Totani of the University of Tokyo’s Department of Astronomy said. “The interior of a neutron star is the densest place in the universe, comparable to that of the interior of an atomic nucleus. Starquakes in neutron stars have opened up the possibility of gaining new insights into very high-density matter and the fundamental laws of nuclear physics.”
While statistical analysis of fast radio bursts has focused in the past on the distribution of wait times between two successive bursts, Totani and graduate student Yuya Tsuzuki calculated the correlation across two-dimensional space, and analyzed the time and emissions energy of nearly 7,000 bursts from three different sources of fast radio bursts.
Using data from Japan, the two then applied the same method to examine the time-energy correlation of earthquakes, and with records from the Hinode international mission to study the sun, they analyzed solar flares, comparing the results of all three phenomena.
Now, the team’s intentions are to continue studying new information on fast radio bursts to make sure the similarities they found are “universal,” the news release said.