Astronomers Detect Mysterious 8-Billion-Year-Old Radio Signal

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Dana Abizaid Contributor
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Astronomers have detected a mysterious fast radio burst that took over eight billion years to reach earth, the journal Science reported Thursday.

The burst, named FRB 20220610A, is one of the most distant and energetic yet recorded, CNN reported. Although it lasted only a millisecond, it reportedly unleashed the equivalent of 30 years of the sun’s energetic emissions, according to Science.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBS, are intense short bursts of radio waves whose origins are unknown, CNN reported. After the first burst was discovered in 2007, hundreds more have been detected, emanating from various distant points in the universe, according to the outlet. (RELATED: Scientists Detect Mysterious Radio Signals From Space)


Radio bursts are hard to observe because most release super bright radio waves lasting only a few milliseconds before disappearing, according to CNN. However, this latest burst was detected using ASKAP radio telescopes located in Western Australia in June 2022 that allowed astronomers to pinpoint its origin, the outlet reported.

“Using ASKAP’s array of (radio) dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” said study co-author Dr. Stuart Ryder, astronomer at Macquarie University in Australia, in a statement. “Then we used (the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope) in Chile to search for the source galaxy, finding it to be older and (farther) away than any other FRB source found to date and likely within a small group of merging galaxies.”

To date, astronomers have been able to trace the origin of nearly 50 fast radio bursts, with nearly half of them located using ASKAP telescopes, CNN reported.

“While we still don’t know what causes these massive bursts of energy, the paper confirms that fast radio bursts are common events in the cosmos and that we will be able to use them to detect matter between galaxies, and better understand the structure of the Universe,” Shannon said.

Astronomers hope that advances in radio telescopes currently under development in South Africa and Australia will facilitate thousands of more fast radio burst detections across greater distances, according to CNN.

“The fact that FRBs are so common is also amazing,” Shannon said. “It shows how promising the field can be, because you’re not just going to do this for 30 bursts, you can do this for 30,000 bursts, make a new map of the structure of the universe, and use it to answer big questions about cosmology.”