Astronomers detected two main targets with a single telescope – a mysterious signal and its source galaxy

Astronomers are working to better understand the galactic environments of fast radio bursts (FRBs) — intense, transient bursts of energy lasting mere milliseconds and with an unknown cosmic origin.

Now, a study of the slow-moving, star-forming gas in the same galaxy has been found to be conducting an FRB. Published in The Astrophysical Journal. This is the fourth publication on two completely different areas of astronomy that describe the same galaxy.

It is even more remarkable that only one telescope made this discovery possible – from the same observation.

Fast Radio Mysteries

First detected in 2007, FRBs are incredibly powerful bursts of radio waves. They originate from distant galaxies, and the signal usually lasts only a few milliseconds.

FRBs are extremely useful from exploring the universe The material that makes up the universeEven to use them to limit the Hubble constant – A measure of how much the universe is expanding.



Also Read: A Brief History: What We Know So Far About Fast Radio Bursts Across the Universe


However, the origin of FRBs remains a mystery to astronomers. Some FRBs are repetitive. Sometimes more than a thousand times. Others have been detected only once.

Are these repeat or non-repeat signals evolved differently? It is currently being investigated by several research groups. At one point, we had theories about how much faster radio bursts were being produced than we could detect them.

It’s an exciting time to study FRBs, as shown by a recent study linking FRBs to gravitational waves. If that discovery is true, at least some FRBs could be produced by two neutron stars merging to form a black hole.

However, it is difficult to pinpoint where the fast radio bursts come from. They are very bright, but very compact, making it difficult for many radio telescopes to get an accurate position. Without knowing exactly where these bursts originate, we cannot study the galaxies in which they are found. And without knowing the environments in which FRBs form, we cannot fully solve their mysteries.

A telescope in Australia is now helping to find it.

Some of the ASKAP dishes.
CSIRO (author presented)

A tool for the job

CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope The Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder, located in the Western Australian desert, is a remarkable instrument. Composed of 36 arrays separated by up to six kilometers, ASKAP will detect FRBs and Mark them to their host galaxies.

ASKAP can actually perform its FRB search at the same time as observations for other science probes. One such ASKAP survey It maps the star-forming gas in galaxies in the southern sky, helping us understand how galaxies form.

During the latest observation for this survey, ASKAP detected a new FRB, and we were able to identify the galaxy from which it came – up close. spiral galaxy Like our own Milky Way.

A gas-filled galaxy

ASKAP was able to detect cold neutral hydrogen gas, the source of star formation in this spiral galaxy. As far as FRB host galaxies go, this is already a rare detection of this gas; Only three other cases have been published so far. These are Follow-up observations were requiredOr Others relied on older observationsdone with different telescopes.

Here, ASKAP gave us both the FRB and the surrounding gas. This is the first time that these rarely overlapping events have been detected simultaneously.

ASKAP both detected cold hydrogen gas (white edges) in this spiral galaxy, and an FRB near the center (location given by the red ellipse). Glowacki et al. 2023; ESO and ASKAP.

The disturbed gas that ASKAP can detect can give us an indication that the merger occurred recently, which tells us about the star-forming history of the galaxy. In turn, this provides clues as to what might cause FRBs.

Previous studies of the gas around FRBs have found that fast radio bursts exist in highly energetic systems, where turbulent interstellar mergers fuel the bursts.

However, for this particular FRB, the host galaxy environment is surprisingly quiet. Further studies will be needed to determine whether we are seeing disturbed gas environments for FRBs as a whole, or whether FRBs have unique scenarios and multiple formation pathways.

A lot more to come

Considering the specificity of such dual detections, this result shows the robustness and versatility of ASKAP. This is the first time that both an FRB and the gas in its host galaxy have been detected simultaneously.

And this is only the beginning. ASKAP is set to detect and localize Over a hundred FRBs per year. By continuing to collaborate with each other, different survey teams can unravel the mysteries behind FRBs, how they form and their host galaxy environments.


CSIRO recognizes Wajari Yamaji as the traditional owners and native title holders of Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison radio-astronomy laboratory site where ASKAP is located.

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