Huge mysterious blast of radio waves was located precisely at a distance of 3.6 billion light years in a large galaxy.
"This is the great breakthrough we've been waiting for since astronomers discovered rapid radio explosions in 2007," said lead author of the study, Keith Bannister, of Australia's national science agency.
"If we were to stay on the Moon and look at Earth with that precision, we could say not only which city the explosion came from, but which zip code and even which city block," he said.
The discovery was made by an international team led by Australians using a new radio telescope belonging to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the Australian scientific agency. Astronomers hope the advance will bring them closer to finding the causes of rapid radio explosions, which remain unknown, according to the study.
The finding, published in the journal Science, is among the most significant since the discovery in 2007 of FRBs. Since 2007, only 85 cosmic radio wave bursts have been detected. Most are "one-offs," but a small number are "repeaters" that repeat themselves in the same place.
Two years ago, astronomers encountered a "repeater" galaxy, but this is the first time they have located exactly one "single" ripple. Rapid radio bursts last less than a millisecond, making it incredibly difficult to pinpoint its source.
The technology used in the discovery was the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. ASKAP has 36 satellite dishes, with the blast reaching each in a slightly different time, allowing scientists to calculate their origin.
"The explosion we locate and its host galaxy do not look anything like the 'repeater' and its host. It comes from an enormous galaxy that is forming relatively few stars, said Dr. Adam Deller of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne and a member of the team.
He continues, "This suggests that rapid radio bursts can be produced in a variety of environments, or that the seemingly unique bursts detected so far by ASKAP are generated by a different mechanism for the repeater."
ASKAP was able to freeze and save the data less than a second after the explosion had reached the telescope of its home galaxy.
"From these tiny time differences – just a fraction of a billionth of a second – we identify the initial galaxy of the explosion and even its exact starting point, 13,000 light years from the center of the galaxy in the galactic suburbs," Deller said.
K.W. Bannister el al., "A single fast radio burst localized to a massive galaxy at cosmological distance," Science (2019). science.sciencemag.org/lookup/ … 1126 / science.aaw5903