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Astronomers have discovered a mysterious burst of radio waves that took 8 billion years to reach Earth. The fast radio burst is one of the most distant and energetic yet observed.
Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are intense, millisecond-long bursts of radio waves of unknown origin. The first FRB was discovered in 2007, and since then, hundreds of these rapid, cosmic flashes have been detected coming from distant points across the universe.
The burst, dubbed FRB 20220610A, lasted less than a millisecond, but in that one moment, it released the equivalent of our Sun’s energetic emissions in 30 years, according to a study published Thursday in the journal. Science.
Many FRBs emit super-bright radio waves that last only a few milliseconds at most before fading, making it difficult to observe fast radio bursts.
Radio telescopes, including the ASKAP array of radio telescopes located in Wazari Yamaji Country in Western Australia, have helped astronomers detect these rapid cosmic flashes. Astronomers used ASKAP to detect the FRB in June 2022 and find out where it came from.
“Using ASKAP’s array of (radio) dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” astronomer Dr. Stuart Ryder of Macquarie University in Australia said in a statement. “We then used (the European Southern Observatory’s Largest Telescope) in Chile to search for the source galaxy, and found that it was older (and farther) than any other FRB source seen to date, and that it was within a small group of galaxies.”
The research team detected an explosion that appears to be a group of two or three galaxies in the process of merging, interacting and forming new stars. This finding is consistent with current theories, which suggest that fast radio bursts may come from high-energy objects resulting from magnetars or exploding stars.
Scientists believe that fast radio bursts may be a unique method that can be used to “weight” the universe by measuring the amount of matter between unaccounted-for galaxies.
“If we calculate the amount of ordinary matter in the universe – the atoms from which we are all made – we are missing more than half of what should be there today,” said Professor Ryan Shannon of Swinburne University. Technology in Australia, in a report. “We think the missing matter is hidden in the space between galaxies, but it may be too hot and diffuse to be seen using normal techniques.”
So far, the results of current methods used to estimate the mass of the universe disagree with each other, which does not include the entire scope of the universe.
“Fast radio bursts sense this ionized material,” Shannon said. “Even in nearly empty space they can ‘see’ all the electrons, and this allows them to measure how much material is between galaxies.”
This method has been proven to use fast radio bursts to detect a missing object The late Australian astronomer Jean-Pierre Magward in 2020.
JP showed how “(distant) fast radio bursts reveal how much gas is diffused between galaxies. This is now called the Macquard relation,” Ryder said. “Some recent fast radio bursts appeared to break this relationship.
Our measurements confirm that the Macquart relation holds beyond half of the known universe.
About 50 fast radio bursts have been traced from their points of origin, half of which have been detected using ASKAP.
“Although we still don’t know what causes these massive bursts of energy, the paper confirms that fast radio bursts are common phenomena in the universe and that they can be used to detect matter between galaxies and better understand the structure of the universe,” Shannon said.
Astronomers hope that future radio telescopes currently being built in South Africa and Australia will help detect thousands of fast radio bursts at great distances.
“It’s surprising that FRBs are so common,” Shannon said. “It shows how promising the field is, because you’re not just going to do it for 30 explosions, you can do it for 30,000 explosions, create a new map of the structure of the universe and use that to answer big questions about cosmology.”