Mysterious cosmic radio blasts traced to surprising source
Repeating bursts come from a faint, distant dwarf galaxy.
Astronomers have pinpointed the location of an enigmatic celestial object that spits out brief, but powerful, blasts of radio waves. Surprisingly, the source of these intermittent signals lies not in a bright galaxy but in a small, dim one, some 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.
The discovery begins to lift the curtain on the mystery of fast radio bursts, which have puzzled astronomers since they first described the signals in 20071. “This detection has really broken open the gates of a new realm of science and discovery,” says Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico, and West Virginia University in Morgantown. She spoke in Grapevine, Texas, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
Fast radio bursts appear to come from beyond the Milky Way and crop up seemingly at random across the sky. Although they last just milliseconds, the radio blasts can emit as much power as 500 million Suns.