A cluster of old galaxies that seem to be merging gave rise to the brightest rapid radio burst ever recorded, according to Hubble Space Telescope measurements.
Since single galaxies significantly closer to Earth have been the source of the great majority of known fast radio bursts (FRBs), astronomers were taken aback by the discovery.
On June 10, 2022, the FRB in question brightened the radio sky above Earth. The Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder radio telescope in Western Australia was the first to detect it.
Sensitive radio telescopes around the world detect FRBs virtually everyday, proving that they are not infrequent events. These instantaneous bursts of cosmic radio waves can surpass the radio output of an entire galaxy in a few of seconds.
But on June 10, 2022, there was a quick radio burst that was unmatched. The extremely large telescope in Chile made further measurements that revealed the FRB was four times more energetic than other known FRBs and originated from a very distant location.
Although the exact mechanism of FRBs is still unknown, scientists believe it must entail some kind of interaction between incredibly massive and compact objects, such black holes or neutron stars.
The majority of FRBs that have been observed in the past can be linked to single, isolated galaxies. However, the investigation into the origin of the extremely powerful event that was witnessed in June 2022 produced surprising findings. The venerable Hubble Space Telescope’s observations of the source location showed that the flash originated from a cluster of very old galaxies that appear to be merging, rather than from a single galaxy.
The age of the seven galaxies in the source region is around five billion years, which is greater than one-third of the universe’s lifetime.
The principal researcher behind the discoveries, astronomer Alexa Gordon of Northwestern University in Illinois, stated in a statement that “it required Hubble’s keen sharpness and sensitivity to pinpoint exactly where the FRB came from.” “Without Hubble’s imaging, it would still remain a mystery as to whether this was originating from one monolithic galaxy or from some type of interacting system. It’s these types of environments — these weird ones — that are driving us toward better understanding the mystery of FRBs.”
The search for the source of rapid radio bursts is still ongoing. When new, more potent radio telescopes, like the Square Kilometer Array telescope, which is presently being constructed on locations in Australia and South Africa, go online later this decade, researchers anticipate significant discoveries.
“We just need to keep finding more of these FRBs, both nearby and far away, and in all these different types of environments,” Gordon stated.
The observations were given Tuesday during the American Astronomical Society’s 243rd conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.