What is brighter than half a billion stars and lasts less than 1/100 of a second?

That’s right, it’s a short radio burst.  No one can think of an astronomical object that could act like this, but every once in a while the radio antennas pick them up.

One hint: It can happen repeatedly from the same object.  They have been picked up happening months apart or once less than a minute apart.

(Radio broadcasts are frequently beamed in a single direction by magnetic fields.  My guess is that this is a beacon that is being swung around in different directions, and every once in a while it happens to point toward us.  That way, it wouldn’t have to be so amazingly powerful, and it would also explain the apparent transience.)

Article in Quanta Magazine




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