A mysterious radio signal beamed to Earth from a distant galaxy has been detected again by astronomers.
The so-called Fast Radio Burst repeats every 157 days with the power of millions of suns and its latest barrage arrived right on time last week.
Known as FRB 121102, scientists hope that studying the strange blinkering signal could unlock the secret to what FRBs are and where they come from.
Fast Radio Bursts are intense pulses of radio waves that last no longer than the blink of an eye and come from far beyond our Milky Way galaxy.
Their origins are unknown. Some think the energetic waves are the result of cosmic explosions, while others reckon they’re signals sent by aliens.
More than 100 FRBs have been discovered to date, but only a handful have repeated and fewer still in a predictable pattern.
Recurring bursts give scientists rare chances to study the origins of FRBs.
FRB 121102 is one of only two FRBs known to regularly repeat and its cycle was described for the first time by British scientists earlier this year.
Astronomers traced its origins to a star-forming region in a dwarf galaxy three billion light-years away.
During its cycle, bursts of milliseconds-long signals are emitted for 90 days before a quiet period lasting 67 days, for a total loop length of 157 days.
Now a new study into the FRB has shed new light on its cycle and possible origins.
A team at the National Astronomy Observatory of China detected 12 bursts from FRB 121102 on August 12.
They scanned the waves using the 500-meter (1,640-foot) Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) – the world’s largest telescope – in southwest China.
The group’s findings, to The Astronomer’s Telegram, suggest the burst is currently in its active phase and repeats every 156 days – not 157.
According to their paper, FRB 121102’s active phase is due to end between 31 August and 9 September 2020.
If telescopes continue to pick up bursts beyond these dates, then either its predictable pattern does not exist or has somehow evolved, they said.
Scientists urged other teams to continue taking readings of FRB 121102 in the hopes of better-understanding it.
Based on the new readings (as well as older ones) the leading theory is that the bursts are emitted by a type of neutron star called a magnetar.
The source of FRBs are still a mystery and the nature of the objects emitting them is unknown.
Newly-discovered asteroid buzzes past Earth Thursday morning – The Weather Network
Astronomers are tracking a newfound asteroid that is expected to make a brief but very close pass by Earth, early Thursday morning.
Asteroid 2020 SW was discovered on September 18, by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. Estimated at between 5 to 10 metres wide, this space rock will make its closest pass by Earth at 7:12 a.m. EDT, on Thursday, September 24.
At that time, it is expected to be roughly 22,000 kilometres above the planet’s surface.
“There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year,” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release on Wednesday. “In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”
This frame from the NASA asteroid trajectory animation shows 2020 SW at its closest approach to Earth. Credit: NASA JPL
At that distance, the asteroid is actually closer than the ring of geostationary weather and communications satellites surrounding Earth at a distance of around 36,000 kilometres. However, as the image above shows, by then, the asteroid will be below the satellite ring and beneath Earth.
Although 2020 SW is logged as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” in NASA’s records, it doesn’t pose any threat to Earth. According to CNEOS, who has traced the asteroid’s orbit back to 1975 and forward to 2095, this September 24 pass is the closest this object has ever come to us in that timespan.
The shape of asteroid 2020 SW’s 373-day orbit around the Sun marks it as an Apollo asteroid – an Earth-crossing asteroid that spends all of its time between the orbits of Venus and Mars. Credit: NASA CNEOS
The next time the asteroid will be anywhere close to Earth again is in September of 2041. At that time, it will be pass far beyond the Moon, at a distance of over 3.5 million kilometres.
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While 2020 SW poses no threat to Earth, it is still of interest to scientists. NASA’s Goldstone Observatory is planning to bounce radio waves off the asteroid’s surface during this close pass. The data collected can then be turned into radar images, revealing the asteroid’s shape and giving us an idea of its composition.
The 34-meter DSS-13 radio antenna at the Goldstone Observatory is used for radio astronomy, including collecting radar images of passing near-Earth objects. Credit: NASA
According to NASA, if 2020 SW or an asteroid of similar size did actually strike Earth, it would almost certainly break apart high up in the atmosphere as a fireball. Only the toughest space rocks of this size – those primarily composed of metal – can reach the surface mostly intact.
“The detection capabilities of NASA’s asteroid surveys are continually improving,” added Chodas, “and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet.”
Indeed, the fact that this tiny rock was spotted roughly six days before its flyby is a testament to the Catalina Sky Survey’s asteroid detection skills.
Reptile dubbed 'Jaws of Death' terrorized Cretaceous seas – CANOE
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“If you were an animal in the oceans less than 20 feet (6 metres) in length, you are most likely on the menu for Gnathomortis,” added Lively, whose study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
That menu, Lively said, may have included sea turtles, fish, sharks and other marine reptiles including smaller mosasaurs.
Like other mosasaurs and many lizards and snakes, it boasted an extra set of teeth on the roof of its mouth.
A large depression on the outer surface of its lower jaws is indicative of large muscles that gave it tremendous bite-force. While it lived alongside even-larger mosasaurs like 46-foot-long (14-metre-long) Tylosaurus in the Western Interior Seaway that ran from present-day Canada to Mexico, Gnathomortis had stronger jaws.
“‘Jaws of Death’ seemed appropriate for this kind of critter,” Lively said, “and it turns out to be an awesome name.”
Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth, ducking below satellites – CTV News
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
An asteroid the size of a school bus is headed our way, but NASA says the space rock will zoom safely past Earth on Thursday.
The newly discovered asteroid will come within 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometres) of Earth, well below many of the communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said this week. The closest approach will occur Thursday morning over the southeastern Pacific Ocean.
Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back to Earth’s neighbourhood until 2041.
Scientists estimate the asteroid is between 15 feet and 30 feet (4.5 metres to 9 metres). By asteroid standards, that’s considered puny. Asteroids of this size hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up once every year or two, said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There could be as many as 100 million of these little asteroids out there.
The real threat are considerably bigger asteroids. The good news is that these are easier to spot much sooner than just a few days out.
Asteroid 2020 SW, as it is known, was discovered last Friday by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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