Dwarf Galaxy 2.5-B Light Years Away Source of ‘Fast Radio Bursts’
The source of mysterious fast radio bursts that have mystified astronomers for years is a dwarf galaxy 2.5-B light years from Earth, scientists say in a new report. The finding, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, was described by one astronomer as “huge.”
“This really is the first ironclad association of a fast radio burst, with another astronomical source, so it’s a pretty huge result,” Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at West Virginia University who reported the first detection of the so-called FRBsin Y 2007 said.
Fast radio bursts are brief pulses of radio waves, flaring with the power of about 500-M Suns – and though only 18 such signals have been recorded, there could be as many as 10,000 a day.
According to the report, the radio bursts could help the study of the space between galaxies, and with mapping the distribution of matter across the universe.
“I am not exaggerating when I say there are more models for what FRBs could be than there are FRBs,” Cornell astronomer and lead author of the report, Shami Chatterjee, said
In Spring, researchers looking at data from Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest radio telescopes in the world found evidence the bursts were repeatedly coming from the same spot in the sky.
They then turned to a network of 27 radio telescopes spread over a 20-mile-wide area in New Mexico, known as the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array.
“Nine pulses captured with 2 telescopes — now we have enormous resolution,” Mr. Chatterjee said. “We’ve pinpointed a speck, to a 10th of an arcsecond [a unit of angular measurement] .?.?. where the burst is coming from.”
Scientists at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii then figured the source was 2.5-B light years away, within a very faint dwarf galaxy with about 1% of the mass of the Milky Way.
How to interpret the finding has yet to be nailed down.
“As good detectives, we should avoid adopting newly emerging dogmas too soon, even when we think we have caught the suspect red-handed,” Heino Falcke, an astronomer at Radboud University-Nijmegen in the Netherlands, wrote in the paper. “FRBs are nimble fugitives and are not necessarily all alike.”
But if astronomers can figure out where they come from and why, they might start to use the signals to probe other mysteries, The Post reported.
“This phenomenon is so well tuned to explore the universe,” astronomer Sarah Burke-Spolaor of West Virginia University and co-author of the new study, said. “This detection has really broken open the gates of a new realm of science and discovery.”