Astronomers have finally managed to pinpoint the exact point of origin of one of the signals known as fast radio bursts (FRB) that emanate from outer space, to a massive galaxy roughly the size of the Milky Way, located approximately 3.6 billion light years away, Science Alert reports.
"This is the big breakthrough that the field has been waiting for since astronomers discovered fast radio bursts in 2007", said Keith Bannister of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
The signal, FRB 180924, became the second-ever FRB to be traced to a location, as these bursts are extremely difficult to predict and trace, the media outlet notes, pointing out that the first traced signal, FRB 121102, "is a special case, because it bursts repeatedly".
In order to accomplish this feat, an international team of astronomers employed the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) using an advanced array of antennas, managed to catch the signal "in the act" and triangulate its point of origin to "two dimensions in space", and then used "the world's most powerful optical telescopes", Gemini, Keck and the VLT, to determine the distance to their target.
As the media outlet points out, this discovery may actually help mankind finally discover what causes these signals.
FRBs are short, bright flashes of radio waves, which appear to be coming from almost halfway across the universe. Scientists have detected 60 single fast radio bursts and two that repeat so far, and they believe there could be as many as a thousand FRBs passing in the sky every day.