Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are flashing, uncertain (in terms of origin), broadband (having a broad spectrum of radio frequencies), flickers constituted in parts of the cosmos further from the Milky Way. Ever since their detection, in 2007, researchers have not been able to track the source of FRBs. But this isn’t the case anymore. Astronomers succeeded in locating the origin of one of these fast radio bursts – a galaxy at 3.6 billion light years away.
The bursts, whose energy was comparable to that of what the sun would emanate in 80 years, lasted no more than 1.3 milliseconds. Even though the scientists couldn’t establish the galaxy it originated from, they achieved to accurately pinpoint the exact place – 13,000 light years from that galaxy’s heart.
An impressive fact about the FRBs is that when on their journey towards Earth, the cosmic waves gather plentiful information concerning the medium they pass through. That medium, also known as the intergalactic medium, is a warm to hot plasma that exists between galaxies. As nobody can see or asses this gas, fast radio bursts help researchers measure it.
Fast Radio Bursts Signals Identified As Coming From A Galaxy At 3.6 Billion Light Years Away
It is believed that over 2,000 radio bursts occur in the Earth’s atmosphere each day, but only 85 were noticed. Among these 85, two of them continued to transmit every once in a while repeat bursts. Because of these repeated occurrences, astronomers succeeded in finding the location of one of them even though it was quite a challenge because the bursts only last a few seconds.
Researchers were using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope, which is comprised of a multitude of satellite dishes set up across a sector of 6 km when they caught the intense burst. They even gave it a name – FRB 180924. Together with the help of their peers from around the globe, they also accomplished to take a photo of the galaxy it originated and to calculate the distance to it. Apparently, that galaxy is quite similar to the Milky Way and quite mundane. There isn’t anything special about it.
Succeeding to spot and pinpoint this fast radio burst was a stepping-stone in unlocking the enigma of what generates these bursts. From now on, astronomers are more and more confident that it would be easier to study fast radio bursts.