Astronomers have for the first time pinpointed the location of a non-repeating fast radio burst.
In a historic first, an international team of researchers have discovered the source of a non-repeating fast radio burst and traced its origin to a galaxy 4 billion light-years away.
The monumental findings, published in AAAS journal Science on Thursday, detail the discovery and localization of FRB 180924, a powerful, one-off fast radio burst that lasted for just a fraction of a second. Speculation about the cause of the bizarre signals takes in everything from explosive neutron stars to alien spacecraft, and while we’re still not sure what’s causing them, the revelation puts astronomers one step closer to their true nature.
“This is the big breakthrough that the field has been waiting for since astronomers discovered fast radio bursts in 2007,” said Keith Bannister, lead author of the paper and principal research engineer with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Knowing the distance for the burst makes it possible to calculate how powerful it was, which helps theorists come up with an explanation for what might have caused it. Similarly, knowing its location–on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way–helps them further constrain those theories.