Astronomers are still trying to unravel the mystery of fast radio bursts (FRBs), intense flashes of radio waves from space that last only a fraction of a second but release as much energy as the Sun does in a few years. With over 50 potential theories to explain their origin, researchers are looking for ways to determine which one is correct. One approach is to study gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of the universe. In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists cross-referenced data from gravitational wave telescopes with observations of FRBs to search for any connections.
While traditional telescopes detect electromagnetic signals like light and radio waves, gravitational waves pass through matter without being obstructed. Astronomers have already detected gravitational waves from colliding systems of compact stars and gamma-ray bursts. There is reason to believe that FRBs may also produce gravitational wave signals.
Some FRBs have been observed to repeat, while others are one-time events. For the repeating bursts, a recent observation of x-rays and a radio burst from a highly magnetized neutron star in our Milky Way galaxy supports the idea that this type of star can produce FRBs. However, the source of non-repeating bursts remains unidentified.
To investigate the cause of FRBs, researchers conducted a targeted search using data from the CHIME radio telescope in Canada, which has detected hundreds of these bursts. By estimating the distance to each burst and searching for gravitational wave data around the closest events, the team looked for known gravitational wave signals as well as any unusual bursts of energy. While no definitive results were found, the study provides valuable insights for future research.
Despite the lack of conclusive findings, future searches using more sensitive gravitational wave detectors could help shed light on the nature of FRBs. These detectors are continually improving and will allow scientists to study a larger sample of these mysterious bursts. Additionally, researchers are focusing on studying FRBs from the known repeating source in our own galaxy.