Back in 2007 a undergraduate student named David Narkevic discovered a mysterious event while looking through data searching for pulsars. The event was a massive surge of radio waves that lasted for only about a millisecond. After its first discovery, a small handful of such events were found in old data. The event was dubbed a “fast radio burst”.

The Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy

In januari 2015, Emily Petroff of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, found another one of these events. This time, however, the event was spotted “live”. Immediately, telescopes around the world looked at the location where the event was spotted, but the burst had seemingly left no traces. Observing the event in realtime, however, was useful. The observation revealed new quality’s in the way the radio wave behaves.

One possible explanation for these rare cosmic events is something called a Blitzar. Besides being proof that astrophysicists come up with the best names ever, it’s a theoretical event that occurs when a neutron star with a mass high enough to collapse into a black hole doesn‘t. For this to happen the neutron star needs to be spinning very fast. So fast that the neutron star doesn’t is kept intact by its own centrifugal force. In stead of collapsing it becomes a pulsar, shooting out a beam of electromagnetic radiation until the centrifugal force is no longer able to hold on to the pulsar and it collapses into a black hole after all. At that point of collapse the pulsar's magnetic field converts into a burst of radio waves.

Blitzars are just one of the many possible explanations for the fast radio bursts, which for now will remain a mystery.