With the culprit in hand, astronomers can now focus on pinpointing the nitty-gritty physics at play. Over the past month, a flood of papers has appeared as theorists have speculated how magnetars might launch such brilliant flashes of radio waves. It’s likely that the magnetar starts the process by blasting charged particles in a powerful flare. But astrophysicists are debating exactly how that flare produces the burst of radio waves. It’s similar to identifying a magician, Hessels said, and then trying to decipher the secrets behind their trick.
How a Burst Bursts
Astronomers have racked up roughly 50 separate theories to explain fast radio bursts—a tally that until recently outnumbered the events. The ideas include a variety of wild scenarios involving evaporating black holes, snapping cosmic strings, and even the propulsion systems of alien civilizations.
But as the number of detections increased, scientists began to favor one explanation above the