International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

What are Fast Radio Bursts (FRB)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fast Radio Burst (FRB)

Mains level: Not Much

A strange radio signal (called Fast Radio Bursts) has been detected in a galaxy several billion light-years from Earth, a recent study claimed.

What is an FRB?

  • The first FRB was discovered in 2007, since when scientists have been working towards finding the source of their origin.
  • Essentially, FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields).
  • Its durations lie in the millisecond scale, because of which it is difficult to detect them and determine their position in the sky.

Who discovered it?

  • The X-ray portion of the simultaneous bursts was detected by several satellites, including NASA’s Wind mission.
  • Further, a NASA-funded project called Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) also detected the radio burst.

Why are they significant?

  • First noticed in 2018 by the Canadian observatory the waves have created ripples across the globe for one reason — they arrive in a pattern.
  • This gave birth to theories that they could be from an alien civilization.
  • Initially, it was believed that the collision of black holes or neutron stars triggers them.
  • But the discovery of repeating FRBs debunked the theory of colliding objects.


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