Scientists discover an 8 billion-year-old radio burst. It’s a mystery

Radio telescopes have revolutionized the cosmos.

Radio wave signals from space – first discovered by engineer Karl Jansky in 1932 – show that the quiet night sky is not quiet at all. “The sky looks clear and calm, but if you look into the radio bands, there are extremely high-energy phenomena taking place in the universe,” Poonam Chandra, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, previously told Mashable.

Black holes, exploding stars, forming stars and beyond shoot energy into the universe in the form of radio waves.

Still, one way of detecting radio waves remains a mystery, even though astronomers have leading theories. These signals are called “Fast Radio Bursts,” or FRBs, which are strange pulses of radio waves that last milliseconds and then disappear. Researchers have now identified the source of the most distant fast radio burst ever discovered. It took a whopping 8 billion years to reach Earth.

“In a new study published in Science“We have found the most distant fast radio burst ever discovered: an 8 billion-year-old pulse that has been traveling for more than half the lifetime of the universe,” says Ryan Shannon, an astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia an author of research, wrote online.


The plan to build a telescope the size of Washington, DC on the moon

The researchers found this fast radio burst, called “FRB 20220610A,” using propagation Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. Astronomers don’t Hear to radio waves, but use large satellite dishes or arrays of many satellite dishes to collect these signals, which often come from distant galaxies.

This latest rapid burst appeared to come from a great distance, but to confirm this, the team tracked the FBR’s location using the Very Large Telescope, located in the high Chilean mountains. This observatory contains optical telescopes that see visible light, and astronomers have actually discovered “faint spots of light” – evidence of an extremely distant galaxy. This wave of light had expanded over time Universe expandedand that stretch showed it to be a whopping 8 billion years old.

“This confirmed that FRB 20220610A had broken the record for the most distant fast radio burst,” said Shannon.

An idea of ​​a fast radio burst traveling from distant galaxies to our Milky Way.

An idea of ​​a fast radio burst traveling from distant galaxies to our Milky Way.
Photo credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser

Uncovering the secret of fast radio bursts

Astronomers will continue to detect and study fast radio bursts.

On the one hand, they want to know where these signals that are triggered by strong or explosive activities come from. There are two leading options, but many more ideas:

  • The signals could come from powerful “magnetars,” which are a type of neutron star (the collapsed core of a star). Magnetars are extremely dense, have spin, and have the strongest magnetic fields known.

  • The merger of massive objects in space, such as collapsed stars or black holes, could trigger these radio bursts.

(As always, it should be noted that there is no evidence that these fleeting signals come from aliens. After all, they are never aliens.)

The Very Large Telescope view of the distant galaxy that emitted FRB 20220610A. The black circle shows the location of the rapid radio burst.

The Very Large Telescope view of the distant galaxy that emitted FRB 20220610A. The black circle shows the location of the rapid radio burst.
Photo credit: Lachlan Marnoch (Macquarie University / ASTRO-3D)

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Astronomer Shannon also points out that detecting fast radio bursts can provide insights into our extended universe, such as its structure. Large clouds of hot gases float between galaxies, but these fast radio bursts slow as they pass through these gases, contributing to detection what’s out there? in the larger cosmos.

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