Earth is being bombarded with invisible light that nobody understands.
Known as fast radio bursts (or FRBs), these ultrashort, ultrapowerful pulses of ancient energy are the universe’s brightest flashes you cannot see. They travel billions of light-years across time and space, shine with the intensity of nearly 100 suns and then blip out of existence mere milliseconds after reaching the range of Earthly telescopes. Because they are radio waves, they do all of this while remaining totally invisible to human eyes.
Could these mystery pulses be the distant flashes of supermassive supernovas? The wild spin of the universe’s speediest neutron stars? Perhaps the thrust of alien spacecraft sailing across the cosmos? Nobody knows for sure. But while only about 30 FRBs have been detected since their initial discovery in 2007, astronomers think they may be a near-constant phenomenon that modern technology isn’t equipped to fully capture.
Today (Oct. 10), a new study published in the journal Nature adds evidence to that assertion, thanks to a high-tech telescope in Australia.
“We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007,” lead study author Ryan Shannon, an astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia, said in a statement. “We’ve also proved that fast radio bursts are coming from the other side of the universe rather than from our own galactic neighborhood.”