Illustration of Blitzar

2013 Blitzar

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Heino Falcke, Luciano Rezzolla astrophysics Illustration of Blitzar


Extremely fast extragalactic bursts of polarized radio energy known as FRBs (fast radio bursts) lacked a widely accepted explanation. Falcke and Rezzolla proposed if a neutron star were spinning fast enough its interior would collapse into a black hole and its outer magnetic field, cut off from its source, would be instantly converted to radio energy.

Another theory

FRBs could be beacons from civilizations in distant galaxies. If so, the alien transmitters would need to be as big as planets. But how could there be so many of them, why don’t they use single frequencies, and why do only a few repeat?

The power of a name

Blitzars are still hypothetical but with a name like blitzars it may be hard to give it up. If fact doesn’t conform to theory a new explanation could reuse the name.

Huge energies released at distant sources appear only faintly at our radio antennas. At the source, an FRB could release as much energy in a millisecond than the sun releases in 80 years. At our antennas, because of its great distance (billions of light years), the same FRB could appear to us a thousand times weaker than a cell phone on the moon.

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