Repeating signal let astronomers point multiple telescopes at distant galaxy
Dave Finley, NRAO/AUI/NSF
GRAPEVINE, TEXAS — A mysterious, recurring blast of cosmic radio waves finally has a home address. For the first time, astronomers have definitively traced a fast radio burst back to its source: a faint galaxy about 2.5 billion light-years away. The finding confirms a decade-long suspicion that these outbursts originate well outside our galaxy, although the mystery as to what’s causing them remains unsolved.
“Now with the first proven distance, we can see how remote and how bright the source must be,” Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University, said January 4 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. For roughly five milliseconds, the burst outshined all the stars in its own galaxy and rivaled the luminosity of blazing disks of gas that swirl around supermassive black holes, said Burke-Spolaor, one of the researchers involved with the project.