An 8 billion-year-old rapid burst of radio waves, stemming from ancient colliding galaxies, could help astronomers solve the mystery of our universe’s missing matter.
The record-breaking Fast Radio Burst (FRB), which is the oldest and most distant example of its kind ever spotted, demonstrates that scientists can use these emissions to effectively “weigh” the universe.
are pulses of radio waves that often last for mere milliseconds, and are a puzzle in themselves because their origins remain a mystery. But the fact that this record-breaking example of one came from a group of two or three merging galaxies could help clear that mystery up.
The burst, designated FRB 20220610A, was spotted by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), an array of radio telescopes located in Western Australia. In just milliseconds, the FRB appeared to release as much energy as the sun puts out in 30 years.
“Using ASKAP’s array of dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” research lead author and Macquarie University researcher Stuart Ryder said in a statement. “Then we used the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to search for the source galaxy, finding it to be older and further away than any other FRB source found to date, and likely within a small group of merging galaxies.”
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Where is the universe’s missing matter?
From simulating the universe, starting at the Big Bang and ending in modern times, scientists have learned that half of all matter that should be present in the universe today is effectively missing. And no, the missing matter isn’t dark matter — a form of matter invisible to us due to its lack of interaction with light. It’s believed to be “ordinary” matter, made up of atoms that are composed of protons and neutrons — particles called baryons.
For decades, this missing matter has…