Given the mysteries of the universe, the idea that fast radio bursts (FRBs) are actually sent by aliens is as tantalizing as it gets.
These strange signals were first discovered just 15 years ago, but experts have no idea how or why they arise.
However, what they now know is that FRBs can be used to measure the “missing” matter between galaxies, which is particularly exciting because it gives us a new way to “weigh” the universe.
This discovery came after astronomers discovered the most distant and most energetic FRB ever discovered, which came from a galaxy so far away that it took eight billion years to reach us.
Although the mysterious signal lasted less than a millisecond, it released an enormous amount of energy – the equivalent of our Sun’s total emissions over a period of 30 years.
Is anyone out there? A mysterious FRB (Fast Radio Burst) signal that could be evidence of an advanced alien civilization has been discovered further from Earth than before. This artist’s impression (not to scale) illustrates the FRB’s path from its distant galaxy to Earth in the Milky Way
One of the biggest problems with estimating the mass of the universe is that current methods produce contradictory results.
Some are even questioning the standard model of cosmology: Just last month, astronomers were baffled when research revealed that our galaxy could be a fifth as massive as previously thought.
“When we add up the amount of normal matter in the universe – the atoms that make up all of us – we find that more than half of what should be there today is missing,” said Ryan Shannon, co-author of the latest study Studied and professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.
“We think the missing matter is hiding in the space between galaxies, but it may be so hot and diffuse that it cannot be detected using normal techniques.”
He added: “Fast radio bursts detect this ionized material. Even in almost completely empty space, they can ‘see’ all the electrons, and this allows us to measure how much material is between the galaxies.”
The discovery of the most distant FRB, designated FRB 20220610A, was made by the ASKAP radio telescope in Australia in June last year and confirmed using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT).
It exceeded the research team’s previous distance record by 50 percent.
“Using the ASKAP dish palette, we were able to determine exactly where the burst came from,” said co-author Stuart Ryder, an astronomer at Macquarie University in Australia.
In search: The discovery of the most distant FRB, named FRB 20220610A, was made by the ASKAP radio telescope in Australia in June last year
Teamwork: It was confirmed with the help of the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT).
“Then we used it [ESO’s VLT] in Chile to search for the source galaxy and found that it is older and more distant than any other FRB source found to date, and likely within a small group of merging galaxies.
Researchers say finding distant FRBs is the key to accurately measuring the universe’s missing matter, as discovered by the late Australian astronomer Jean-Pierre (“JP”) Macquart in 2020.
“JP showed that the further away a fast radio burst is, the more diffuse gas is exposed between galaxies. “This is now known as the Macquart relation,” Ryder said.
“Some recent rapid radio bursts seemed to destroy that relationship. “Our measurements confirm that the Macquart relationship applies to more than half of the known universe.”
Fellow researcher Shannon added: “Although 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 can use them to detect matter between galaxies to better understand the structure of the universe understand.’
With the latest FRB discovery, astronomers have virtually reached the limit of what can be discovered with today’s telescopes.
But they hope that the construction of two new observatories – the international Square Kilometer Array Observatory in South Africa and Australia and ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert – will change that.
These observatories should be able to find thousands more FRBs, including extremely distant ones that are even further away than FRB 20220610A and are currently undetectable with current equipment.
The new study was published in the journal Science.
FAST RADIOBURTS ARE SHORT RADIO EMISSIONS FROM SPACE, THE ORIGIN OF WHICH IS UNKNOWN
Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are radio emissions that occur transiently and randomly, making them not only difficult to find but also difficult to investigate.
The mystery is that it is not known what could cause such a short and sharp burst.
This has led some to speculate that it could be anything from colliding stars to artificially generated messages.
Scientists searching for fast radio bursts (FRBs), which some believe could be signals sent by aliens, could occur any second. The blue dots in this artist’s rendering of the filamentary structure of galaxies are signals from FRBs
The first FRB was discovered, or “heard,” by radio telescopes back in 2001, but was not discovered until 2007 when scientists analyzed archival data.
But it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to conclude it wasn’t a defect in one of the telescope’s instruments.
Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics note that FRBs can be used to study the structure and evolution of the universe, whether their origin is fully understood or not.
A large population of distant FRBs could serve as material probes over gigantic distances.
This intervening material obscures the signal of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the radiation left over from the Big Bang.
Careful study of this intervening material should lead to a better understanding of fundamental cosmic components, such as the relative amounts of ordinary matter, dark matter, and dark energy, that affect how quickly the universe is expanding.
FRBs can also be used to find out what caused the “mist” of hydrogen atoms that permeated the early universe to break up into free electrons and protons as temperatures cooled after the Big Bang.