Cosmic radio signal precisely pinpointed to galaxy billions of light years from Earth

A burst of cosmic radio waves that took 3.6 billion years to reach Earth came from a Milky Way-sized galaxy. These waves could now help scientists build a more precise map of the universe, The Independent reports:

‘The discovery was made by an Australian-led international team using a new radio telescope belonging to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Australian science agency.

“Astronomers hope the breakthrough will move them closer to discovering the causes of fast radio bursts, which remain unknown.”

Dr Adam Deller from the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, noted the importance of his team’s discovery:

“The burst we localised and its host galaxy look nothing like the ‘repeater’ and its host. It comes from a massive galaxy that is forming relatively few stars.

“This suggests that fast radio bursts can be produced in a variety of environments, or that the seemingly one-off bursts detected so far by ASKAP are generated by a different mechanism to the repeater.”

An array of radio telescopes. Image via Wikipedia

Being able to pinpoint radio bursts such as those located by the Australian researchers also helps scientists determine what exactly lies in the vast spaces between galaxies, the so-called “missing matter” paradox that has puzzled astronomers for decades, explains:

“Theoretical calculations have suggested there should be twice the number of atoms that can be seen in the stars, which led astronomers to theorize they must be contained in ionized gases in the vast spaces that separate galaxies.

“Just as light splits into different colors as it passes through a prism, radio waves disperse as they encounter matter. In the case of FRBs, higher frequencies arrive first, and lower frequencies arrive later.

“This creates a dispersion pattern, and the pattern observed from FRB 180924 matched what astronomers expected from the theory, meaning the intergalactic space does indeed contain the amount of ionized gas that was expected.”

The latest discovery is easily the most groundbreaking advance in understanding since fast radio bursts were first identified in 2007, according to lead author Keith Bannister, from Australia’s national science agency:

“If we were to stand on the Moon and look down at the Earth with this precision, we would be able to tell not only which city the burst came from, but which postcode and even which city block.”

Will the universe reveal all of its secrets in the years to come? It’s too early to say, but today we’re much closer to a better understanding of distant space than we’ve ever been.

Featured Image Via YouTube Screenshot


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