• Burst of cosmic waves tracked to galaxy billions of light-years away

    By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    A mysterious burst of fast, cosmic radio waves has been traced to a galaxy about 3.6 billion light-years from Earth.

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    The significant discovery was made by an Australian-led international team of scientists using three of the world’s largest telescopes, The Independent reported. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.

    Scientists first discovered fast radio bursts, known as FRBs, in 2007, said lead study author Keith Bannister, of Australia’s national science agency. 

    The source of a repeating fast radio burst was tracked in 2017, CNN reported. A single FRB hadn’t been tracked to its source until now.

    Scientists tracked the single radio burst, named FRB 180924, to a galaxy about the same size as our own, 3.6 billion light-years away. It was discovered by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope, or ASKAP, in Western Australia.

    “If we were to stand on the Moon and look down at the Earth with this precision, we would be able to tell not only which city the burst came from, but which postcode and even which city block,” Bannister said.

    The repeating burst detected in 2017 came from a small galaxy full of forming stars. The single burst came from a large galaxy with little star formation.

    "This suggests that fast radio bursts can be produced in a variety of environments, or that seemingly one-off bursts detected so far by ASKAP are generated by a different mechanism to the repeater," said Adam Deller, an author of the study and an associate professor at the Swinburne University of Technology's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

    The question of what causes the bursts still remains. But tracking their source brings scientists one step closer to understanding them.

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