One of the more intriguing mysteries in astronomy today come from what we call “fast radio bursts.” The first one appeared in the year 2007 in the form of a sudden, very large burst of radio waves. What followed afterward was equally interesting, and that was pure silence.
Astronomers pointed their radio telescopes in the same general region of sky for years and just could not manage to detect another burst episode. Could this have been a one-off event, or perhaps an event coming from a terrestrial source (Earth)?
Some purported that perhaps the detection was a complete accident, citing that a microwave oven operating with the door open could leave a radio signature similar to what was seen by the radio astronomers. So now, might the fast radio burst causing all this ruckus have been the result of a hungry astronomer?
Astronomers would have to wait patiently for another 8 years before finally being rewarded with the detection a rich set of 25 sudden radio bursts each with a duration of only thousandths of a second. As a result of these new outbursts, astronomers finally pinpointed the source.
The source of this piercing radio light is a small and very distant galaxy in an otherwise serene part of the sky. But the mystery continues, as it remains unknown which of the approximately 10 billion stars that reside in this faint and distant galaxy makes those sudden “screams” in the night.
Were these ratio burst perhaps emitted instead by the gas surrounding a newly formed black hole? Or perhaps there was a black hole as the center of the galaxy that incited the short-lived episodes of radio loudness, or something else? It will take still more patience and effort to decide between these two and a number of other choices.
The only bit we do know for certain is that the hungry astronomer potentially operating the microwave oven is off the hook.