Astronomers detect record-breaking radio signal from Earth after eight bn years


WEB DESK: About eight billion years ago, a significant event occurred in a distant galaxy, unleashing an incredibly powerful burst of radio waves that traveled across the vast expanse of the universe.

According to CBS News, the cosmic signal reached Earth on June 10 last year, lasting for just a fraction of a second. Remarkably, a radio telescope in Australia managed to detect this fleeting radio burst.

The media reports said that the cosmic phenomenon is known as a fast radio burst (FRB), a fascinating but still mysterious occurrence initially observed in 2007. Astronomers revealed on Thursday that this specific FRB was not only exceptionally powerful but also originated from a location farther away than any previously recorded. It had traveled an astounding eight billion light-years, dating back to a time when the universe was less than half its current age.

The precise cause of FRBs remains one of the most perplexing puzzles in astronomy. Various theories have been proposed, including the notion that they might be signals from extraterrestrial life, as suggested by a Harvard University professor.

Nonetheless, scientists consider distant, highly magnetic dead stars known as magnetars as the leading candidates for the source of FRBs, given their extraordinary magnetic properties.

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Meanwhile, an astrophysicist at Australia’s Swinburne University Ryan Shannon described the detection as “mind-blowing,” emphasising the rarity of capturing this cosmic event. He also noted that while there could be hundreds of thousands of FRBs occurring daily in the sky, only around a thousand have been identified so far, with the origin of just 50 of them determined.

To trace the origin of the latest FRB, labeled FRB 20220610A, researchers turned to the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The telescope revealed that the signal originated from a galaxy with an uneven distribution of matter, possibly a result of merging with one or two other galaxies, potentially linked to the enigmatic magnetar.

However, Shannon stressed that this was the team’s best hypothesis, as FRBs have been detected in unexpected locations, including within our Milky Way galaxy.

Beyond unraveling the mysteries of FRBs, scientists hope to employ them as tools to shed light on other cosmic enigmas. These radio bursts can provide insights into the distribution of matter in the universe, particularly the elusive dark matter and dark energy, which make up the majority of the universe.

Fast radio bursts carry signatures of the gas they encounter on their journey, allowing scientists to measure this matter’s properties. By studying a larger number of FRBs, researchers aim to calculate the total weight of the universe, providing invaluable insights into the cosmic web that connects galaxies.

With more advanced radio telescopes expected to come online soon, astronomers anticipate a wealth of new discoveries and measurements. Liam Connor, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, not involved in this research, expressed optimism that these future telescopes will uncover tens of thousands of FRBs, enabling scientists to weigh the matter throughout different cosmic eras.

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