Context: NASA has recently reported that it observed a mix of X-ray and radio signals never observed before in the Milky Way. Significantly, the flare-up it observed included the first fast radio burst (FRB) seen within the galaxy.

More on the news:

  • The X-ray portion of the simultaneous bursts was detected by several satellites, including NASA’s Wind mission, and the radio component was discovered by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME).
  • Also, a NASA-funded project called Survey for Transient Astronomical Radio Emission 2 (STARE2) also detected the radio burst seen by CHIME. 
    • STARE2 is operated by Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the team behind it determined that the burst’s energy was comparable to FRBs.

Significance of the discovery

  • Until now, there were various theories that tried to explain what the possible sources of an FRB could be. One of the sources proposed by the theories has been magnetars. 
  • However, before the recent findings, scientists did not have any evidence to show that FRBs could be blasted out of a magnetar. Therefore, the observation is especially significant.

Fast Radio Burst (FRB)

  • The first FRB was discovered in 2007, since when scientists have been working towards finding the source of their origin. 
  • The FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields) whose durations lie in the millisecond-scale, because of which it is difficult to detect them and determine their position in the sky.
  • FRB detected recently:
    • The source of the FRB detected recently in the Milky Way is a very powerful magnetic neutron star, referred to as a magnetar, called SGR 1935+2154 or SGR 1935.
    • The FRB was part of one of the magnetar’s most prolific flare-ups, with the X-ray bursts lasting less than a second. 
    • The radio burst, on the other hand, lasted for a thousandth of a second and was thousands of times brighter than any other radio emissions from magnetars seen in the Milky Way previously. 
    • It is possible that the FRB-associated burst was exceptional because it likely occurred at or close to the magnetar’s magnetic pole.


  • It is a neutron star, “the crushed, city-size remains of a star many times more massive than our Sun.” 
    • Neutron stars are formed when the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse when it reaches the end of its life. 
  • The magnetic field of such a star is very powerful, which can be over 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet and up to a thousand times stronger than a typical neutron star’s.

Image Source: IE