Astronomers Discover Ancient Cosmic Radio Burst Resembling Signals from Eight Billion Years Ago

Astronomers Discover Ancient Cosmic Radio Burst Resembling Signals from Eight Billion Years Ago

 Astronomers in Australia have pinpointed an intense burst of cosmic radio waves that appears to be nearly eight billion years old, akin to the era of the dinosaurs - an ancient phenomenon that has long eluded clarity.

Researchers have revealed that within less than one millisecond, our Sun's energy output to space has diminished by a factor of three in three-quarters of the universe's lifetime. This discovery was made using the SKA Pathfinder radio telescope in Western Australia, which has since been replaced by the European Southern Observatory's massive optical telescope, one of the most effective optical telescopes.

A Glimpse into the Universe's Missing Matter

A Fast Radio Burst, or FRB, is a pulse of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation. It lasts a fraction of a second but leaves other radio sources in the cosmos trailing far behind. In the electromagnetic spectrum, radio waves have the longest wavelength.

Ryan Shannon, an astronomy expert at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, stated, "FRBs are like the microbursts you encounter on a macro scale in the radio waves. The energy in an FRB is equivalent to the amount of energy the Sun produces in about two days."

This particular FRB is the oldest ever detected so far, originating more than three billion years ago. The universe is roughly 13.8 billion years old. By comparison, Earth is nearly 4.5 billion years old. To observe celestial objects and events from eons ago, astronomers scrutinize vast cosmic distances, making this burst farther than any known FRB yet.

Sydney's Macquarie University's astronomy expert and co-author of the study, Stuart Ryder, noted, "Now we know FRBs have been ongoing for more than half the age of the universe."

Fast Radio Bursts were first detected in 2007.

"The most probable source is a highly magnetized neutron star, often referred to as a magnetar," said Dr. Shannon. "These stars are corpses left behind by supernova explosions in the universe. They are tiny compared to the Sun but incredibly powerful. These objects are some of the most extreme things in the universe, which might require extreme events to cause such violent bursts."

Dr. Shannon further explained that they are quite common, with scientists contemplating more than 100,000 occurrences daily in the universe. However, very few have been pinpointed so far, and it's only about 50 - of which this one is included - that were traced back to the region where they originate.

Astronomers Discover Ancient Cosmic Radio Burst Resembling Signals from Eight Billion Years Ago

"In the vast cosmos, it's not clear whether what we were seeing was a few giant signals or a few small ones, as they don't have good angular resolution - meaning they can't differentiate between different sources of radio waves - in other bands like optical light or X-rays. These signals are also extremely brief," Dr. Shannon said.

Ancient Cosmic Radio Waves Unveiled

Researchers suggest that studying these bursts could help uncover vast amounts of matter and assist in its measurement, which is believed to fill the intergalactic voids between galaxies.

"Most of the normal matter in the universe - the stuff that makes stars, planets, and people - is thought to reside in the gaps between galaxies in the cosmic web," Dr. Shannon said.

"Scientists have been investigating this issue for many decades using other techniques. As it's so diffuse, it was almost hidden by other means, so it was referred to as 'missing.'"

Now, with FRBs, we're getting a glimpse of the universe's missing components.

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