Astronomers detect most distant fast radio burst yet, unlocking new secrets of the universe

In a spectacular cosmic revelation, an international group of astronomers recorded a flash of radio waves coming from a galaxy so distant that its signals took eight billion years to reach Earth. This “fast radio burst” or FRB, labeled FRB 20220610A, is not only the most distant but also among the most powerful ever observed, unleashing energy equivalent to what our Sun produces over three decades—all in less than a millisecond.

This monumental discovery was first identified last June by the Australian ASKAP radio telescope and later analyzed using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

“Using ASKAP’s array of dishes, we were able to determine precisely where the burst came from,” says Stuart Ryder from Macquarie University in Australia, and co-lead author of the study, in a statement. The source, he explains, is “older and further away than any other FRB source found to date and likely within a small group of merging galaxies.”

But why is such a distant flicker of radio waves significant? Beyond being a cosmic spectacle, FRBs offer a groundbreaking way to solve the universal conundrum of the missing matter. Essentially, while scientists can estimate the mass of the universe, over half of the “normal matter”—the atoms constituting everything we see, including ourselves—is inexplicably absent.

This amazing panorama shows the observing platform of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal, in Chile.
This amazing panorama shows the observing platform of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal, in Chile. (Credit: ESO/H.H. Heyer)

“If we count up the amount of normal matter in the universe… we find that more than half of what should be there today is missing,” explains Ryan Shannon, a professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and study co-leader. The team hypothesizes this “ghost” matter might be trapped in spaces between galaxies, eluding detection because of its extreme temperature and diffuse state.

Remarkably, FRBs could be the cosmic detectives we need. “Fast radio bursts sense this ionized material. Even in space that is nearly perfectly empty they can ‘see’ all the electrons, and that allows us to measure how much stuff is between the galaxies,” Shannon reveals.

The importance of uncovering distant FRBs was emphasized by the late Australian astronomer Jean-Pierre Macquart. He asserted that the further an FRB is, the more it exposes the elusive gas between galaxies—a principle now known as the Macquart relation. “Our measurements confirm the Macquart relation holds out to beyond half the known universe,” says Ryder.

Artist's impression of the fast radio burst and the instruments used to detect and locate it.
Artist’s impression of the fast radio burst and the instruments used to detect and locate it. (Credit: Carl Knox (OzGrav/Swinburne University)

Despite their proven significance in cosmic measurement, the actual origins of these intense energy bursts remain a mystery. However, Shannon points out, “the paper confirms that fast radio bursts are common events in the cosmos” and crucially, they are a resource for detecting intergalactic matter and comprehending the universe’s structure.

This discovery pushes the boundaries of our current astronomical capabilities, but it won’t for long. With the impending completion of advanced facilities like the Square Kilometer Array Observatory’s radio telescopes in South Africa and Australia, and ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope in Chile, the cosmic horizon will expand further. These instruments, capable of detecting even older and more distant cosmic phenomena, promise to unlock more secrets of the universe, perhaps even identifying the enigmatic sources of FRBs.

The research paper is published in the journal Science.


      1. I believe either God or aliens are sending us messages through coincidences. Today the exterminator said he could not move the dishwasher without the help of another man. As soon as he finished the sentence the doorbell rang. It was the handy man in the building. I wote 2 books on coincidences and still get frequent ones

  1. Maybe it was a huge burst of wind from an alien that got trapped and made its way to earth LOL. What a boring read and just boring nonsense

      1. I thought the universe was supposed to be 3 billion years old.
        If it is at least 8 billion years in “that” direction, and you add at least 8 billion years in the oppposite side of earth direction, that’s 16 billion right there.
        It is really imposible for man to measure God the Almighty’s creation.

        1. Not sure where you got 3 billion. Most scientists agree The Universe is likely just over 13 billion Also, your math/logic doesn’t hold up re: the size, shape, and age of space. And you’re correct, The Flying Spaghetti Monster did an okay job creating The Universe.

        2. so even god doesn’t understand how the universe works – how the universe can span a greater length measured in light years – then the time it took to expand in years – pray a book to him

    1. 8 billion. But I know it’s difficult to remember given the effort you must have put in adding this lame comment.

    1. Is something being teleported? All that energy in a fast radio burst. Imagine if you could ride a radio wave. Somehow you could in theory teleport right?

  2. hold it, I’m pulling it in now on my ham radio, it’s in morse code apparently, it says “humans, stay away from us, you are insane!”

  3. 1-The universe is a simultaneous existence of ALL things (“God”, the absolute spirit of oneness): evening AND morning, root AND offspring, Alpha AND Omega etc. pp., measured in the collision of two or more points that is TIMING, not ‘LINEAR’ ‘time’. How so? Logic: If not all things were in place from the beginning, the universe would have collapsed.
    Example: Not a single animal would be alive, if not every animal with their ENTIRE food chain, as well most of them male + female, had been CREATED in synchronous simultaneity.

  4. Someday….
    Good news, We found indications of intelligence.
    Bad news, Message is over a billion years old.

  5. I , For One , Am waiting for the second coming .
    Of the Carrington Event . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  6. Why waste time on something that does not matter one bit? Don’t these folks have a desire to actually make something usefull to us? This is a hobby for a very few people who expect us all to be impressed.

  7. when i was 10 years old my father was telling my mother about a movie he watched on tv, i didn’t know that as i came thru the kitchen only hear the part about there was an earth on he other side of the sun we didn’t know about etc etc etc. and i said what a dumb movie. 1967 i guess he was an eye doctor 33 degree mason a grand poobah and mensa ta boot. still laughing at the look i got. kinda like the time he told me to get the “10 high” outta the cupboard and pretend to drop it. [wicsky] toodle – ooh.

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