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Scientists discover 8-billion-year-old fast radio burst

Several galaxies merged nearly 8 billion years ago. The energy they released was picked up by Australian space telescopes in June 2022.
Stock photo of distant galaxies.
Posted at 9:57 AM, Oct 20, 2023

Scientists say they have picked up a fast radio burst, marking the oldest and most distant fast radio burst ever received by researchers. 

The burst was about 8 billion years old and came from a group of two or three galaxies that were merging. Scientists say the fast radio bursts can help them explore the expansion of the universe and perhaps weigh the universe. 

The findings were published by a group of Australian researchers Friday in Science

The discovery was made using Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation ASKAP radio telescope. Researchers said the merging galaxies released the equivalent of our sun’s total emission over 30 years in milliseconds.

"Using ASKAP’s array of dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” says Stuart Ryder, the first author on the paper. "Then we used the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to search for the source galaxy, finding it to be older and further away than any other FRB source found to date, and likely within a small group of merging galaxies."

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The researchers said that there have been nearly 50 fast radio bursts detected to date. They believe that they can begin detecting more of these events, and at even greater distances. 

“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,” said Swinburne University of Technology associate professor Ryan Shannon.

Shannon said that current methods of measuring the mass of the universe give different answers. He says that detecting fast radio bursts allows scientists to detect the matter that lies between galaxies. 

“Fast radio bursts sense this ionized material. Even in space that is nearly perfectly empty they can ‘see’ all the electrons, and that allows us to measure how much stuff is between the galaxies," Shannon said.