Bright Sparks & Dark Secrets: How Fast Radio Bursts Illuminate the Distant Cosmos

Mysterious Signal Outer Space Concept Art

An unexpected high-energy fast radio burst (FRB) from a high-redshift galaxy has been observed, challenging existing models of FRB emissions. While FRBs’ exact origins remain a mystery, they can provide valuable information about the cosmic territories they traverse.

A newly observed high-energy FRB from a distant galaxy challenges existing models and relationships, offering fresh insights into the vast cosmos.

An unusually high-energy fast radio burst (FRB) from a high-redshift galaxy has offered new insights into the distant universe, challenging current models of FRB emission. The findings also help constrain key attributes of these astrophysical phenomena. FRBs are brief pulses of radio emission originating from distant extragalactic sources.

Although the astrophysical processes that cause FRBs aren’t fully understood, the signals they produce can be used to infer information about the cosmic environments they pass through as they travel across the universe, including the nature of their galaxies of origin and the distribution of plasma in the intergalactic medium.

Record-Breaking Fast Radio Burst Artist’s Impression

This artist’s impression (not to scale) illustrates the path of the fast radio burst FRB 20220610A, from the distant galaxy where it originated all the way to Earth, in one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms. The source galaxy of FRB 20220610A, pinned down thanks to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, appears to be located within a small group of interacting galaxies. It’s so far away its light took eight billion years to reach us, making FRB 20220610A the most distant fast radio burst found to date. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Decoding Cosmic Signals: The Macquart Relation

Previous studies have shown that FRBs localized to host galaxies at different redshift exhibit a positive correlation between the extragalactic dispersion measure (DM), the density of electrons the radio signal passed through as it traversed the intergalactic medium, and the host redshift – a measure known as the Macquart relation. However, this relation has only been measured using identified FRB host galaxies at nearby redshifts (£ 0.522).

Diving Deeper: The Puzzling Burst FRB 20220610A

Here, Stuart Ryder and colleagues describe observations of the particularly luminous burst FRB 20220610A and localize its source to a galaxy with a complex morphology located at redshift ~1.01. According to the findings, the non-Galactic DM of FRB 20220610A is higher than what is predicted by the Macquart relation based on previous measurements.

This discrepancy indicates passage through additional turbulent magnetized plasma in either the interstellar medium of the host galaxy or the foreground intergalactic medium. Moreover, the research team shows that the FRB was unusually energetic, exceeding predictions by previous FRB population models by a factor of 3.5, challenging models of the FRB emission mechanism and demonstrating the existence of a population of high-energy high-redshift FRBs.

For more on this research:

Reference: “A luminous fast radio burst that probes the Universe at redshift 1” by S. D. Ryder, K. W. Bannister, S. Bhandari, A. T. Deller, R. D. Ekers, M. Glowacki, A. C. Gordon, K. Gourdji, C. W. James, C. D. Kilpatrick, W. Lu, L. Marnoch, V. A. Moss, J. X. Prochaska, H. Qiu, E. M. Sadler, S. Simha, M. W. Sammons, D. R. Scott, N. Tejos and R. M. Shannon, 19 October 2023, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.adf2678

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