- Scientists intercepted a message from space
- The signal is coming from an alien galaxy
Astronomers have picked up a mysterious radio signal that traveled from the farthest reaches of space – an incredible eight billion years – before finally reaching Earth.
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Scientists have detected an extremely fast radio burst (so-called fast radio burst, FRB) coming from a distant galaxy. According to new research, this space object is very “peculiar” compared to other detections of radio flashes in recent years, Phys.org writes.
The astronomers’ findings, published in the journal Science, indicate that this is the strongest signal ever observed. It was so powerful that it released in less than a millisecond the same amount of energy as our Sun emits in 30 years.
“That’s enough energy to microwave a bowl of popcorn about twice the size of the Sun,” study co-author Ryan Shannon told New Scientist magazine.
What could have caused such a strong signal?
No one is sure, but scientists say this remarkable detection could help dispel the mystery of the origin of FRBs while providing an invaluable tool for measuring the universe itself.
“The work confirms that fast radio bursts are a common occurrence in the universe and that we will be able to use them to detect the matter between galaxies and to better understand the structure of the universe,” said Shannon.
FRBs are a big mystery to scientists. The first one was even detected only in 2007, and since then only about 50 have been added. This FRB, designated 20220610A, was discovered in June last year using the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope system.
When scientists subsequently studied data from telescopes in Europe and South America, they were able to reveal the origin of the flash. However, they were fascinated to discover that it was coming from a much greater distance than they had anticipated. They expected to find a source galaxy, but instead found that the FRB likely came from a cluster of merging galaxies where new stars are being formed.
According to the researchers, this confirms the prevailing theory that these flashes come from neutron stars, which are the collapsed cores of massive stars that are considered to be some of the densest objects in the universe.
Finding distant FRBs is key to accurately measuring the amount of missing matter in the universe, as cosmologist Jean-Pierre Macquart has shown. “Macquart showed that the more distant the radio burst, the more rare matter it detects; this relationship is called the Macquart relationship,” says researcher Ryan Shannon.
The Macquart relation holds for most FRBs, but does not apply to FRB 20220610A, meaning that further investigation is needed to understand the fast radio signals. Despite their origin, FRBs are ubiquitous. However, none of the theories proposed so far can fully explain all the properties of these powerful flashes.
Preview photo source: Chalmers University of Technology, source: the journal Science, futurism, science, new scientist