Astronomers have identified a nearby galaxy as the point of origin of a mystifying space signal.
The recently discovered space signal is categorized as a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) and has been designated ‘FRB 20200120E,’ according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
FRBs are defined as a very intense, millisecond-long burst of radio waves that are produced by unidentified sources in deep space.
However, now astronomers think that FRB20200120E may be coming from the direction of nearby galaxy M81, which is about 11.74 million light-years away.
If the radio signal did indeed come from M81 it would make FRB20200120E the closest known extragalactic fast radio burst – 40 times closer to our galaxy than the next-closest extragalactic FRB, according to Science Alert.
Still, there is one element in the recent findings that are baffling scientists: The signal seems to be associated with a globular cluster.
“Here we report observations that localized the FRB to a globular cluster associated with M81, where it is 2 parsecs away from the optical center of the cluster,” the researchers wrote in a journal article.
This is strange because globular clusters are home to a community of very old (and typically low-mass) stars – contradictory to our current belief that FRBs are formed in high-mass, core-collapsing supernovas.
Albeit rare, researchers propose that it is not completely out of the realm of possibilities that the FRB is coming from the globular cluster, citing several potential scenarios.
“We propose instead that FRB 20200120E originates from a highly magnetized neutron star formed either through the accretion-induced collapse of a white dwarf or the merger of compact stars in a binary system,” the study noted.
“Compact binaries are efficiently formed inside globular clusters, so a model invoking them could also be responsible for the observed bursts,” the study’s authors added.
Although there is not enough evidence to definitively determine the cause of the FRB, a flashing black hole may also be responsible, according to past studies (per Space.com).
FRB20200120E was initially detected in 2021 using the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) 70 m dish (DSS-63) at radio frequencies between 2.2 and 2.3 GHz, according to Harvard’s Astrophysics Data System.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.