Mysterious, flashy radio waves originating from deep space known as fast radio burst or FRB have been a mystery and their sources have eluded astronomers.
However, the brightest FRB recorded so far, precisely the 18th, known as FRB 150807 has been viewed by scientists led by Caltech scholar Vikram Ravi. Their findings are going to be a breakthrough for scientists in many respects.
The research paper was published in the journal Science on Nov. 17. The discovery is a milestone in exploring the diffuse, faint web of material existing between galaxies called the cosmic web, according to the paper.
The lately recorded FRB will be helping astronomers in studying the swirling matter between galaxies and the magnetic fields existing between them and in mapping the structure of the cosmos.
FRBs occur billions of light-years away and they are of use in studying the "universe between us and them," Ravi noted.
There had been many studies on the density and turbulence of intergalactic particles between Earth and the magnetic fields of "cosmic web."
But no consensus existed on what causes FRBs. Some say colliding neutron stars are to blame.
"We really don't know where they come from, which particular galaxies [they start in], or even what causes them and how they're emitted," says Ravi.
Most Luminous FRB
Ravi, Ryan Shannon of Curtin University and other scientists observed the luminous FRB 150807 at the Parkes telescope in southern Australia in August 2015. They saw the brightest FRB 150807 being captured for nanoseconds.
Noting that it is natural for FRBs to get distorted when they travel through space and cross intergalactic material similar to the twinkling of a star as a result of the distortion by Earth's atmosphere, they found that FRB 150807 remained strong and healthy.
The FRB 150807 was in fact observed when monitoring a pulsar, which is a neutron star emitting radio waves. It was found that although the FRB stays millions of miles away from the pulsar, the magnetic fields of both appeared identical, according to Shannon, the co-author.
This rebuts all previous claims that FRBs emanate in dense environments with strong magnetic fields. The result gave a new insight into the magnetism that exists between galaxies as a way of studying cosmic magnetic fields.
Though the FRB appeared as a tiny blip in real time, the challenge before astronomers has been to identify whether the FRB emerged from the Milky Way or a distant galaxy. They also had to determine how much energy passes in each FRB flash. For the team, FRB has opened the way for probing the intergalactic space.
More studies will now reveal the answer to Ravi's question whether FRBs are "truly cosmological, or [e]xtragalactic."