A huge wave of radio waves, which had been traveling for more than half the life of the universe, reached Earth. Never before have scientists detected such an ancient and vibrant fast radio burst.
Astronomers have discovered the oldest fast radio burst (Fast radio blast, or FRB) has ever been observed. This short pulse of radio waves is 8 billion years old.
Since the discovery of fast radio bursts in 2007, scientists have measured hundreds of these strange bursts of radio waves. But they have never detected an FRB flow with as much energy as this.
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“The eruption has as much energy as the Sun produces in 30 years,” says the astronomer. Ryan Shannon From Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. “That’s enough energy to make a bowl of popcorn the size of two suns.” The researchers described them Discovery In the scientific journal Sciences.
Short but sweet
Shannon and his colleagues detected the radio burst using an Australian radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder. They found that the fast radio burst, named FRB 20220610A, contains three and a half times the energy of previously detected fast radio bursts.
Scientists believe that fast radio bursts come from magnetic neutron stars in distant galaxies. These events usually last only a fraction of a second. “We don’t see most fast radio bursts a second time after we first find them,” Shannon says.
Very old radiation
Through the Very Large Telescope in Chile, researchers looked at the point in the sky where the radiation was coming from. At that site, they saw a group of galaxies that they believed were the source of the radiation. “This means that radiation has been traveling through space for approximately 8 billion years,” says the astronomer. Stuart Ryder From Macquarie University in Australia.
The previous record holder traveled through the universe for “only” 5 billion years. The new discovery suggests that fast radio bursts have been around for at least half the universe’s 13.7 billion years.
Astronomers study fast radio bursts to get a better picture of the early universe. On the way to Earth, radio waves become slightly distorted. This is because fast radio bursts collide with matter during their journey. This mainly concerns floating charged particles such as electrons. Such collisions change the frequency of the radio wave. By studying what the radio pulse looks like when it reaches Earth, astronomers can see how uniformly matter is distributed among galaxies, Shannon says.
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