The strongest known fast radio burst was traced: scientists found the merger of seven galaxies
For the first time, scientists have managed to trace the path of an incredibly strong burst of electromagnetic energy to its source, which turned out to be a cluster of seven merging galaxies. This discovery may confirm the hypothesis that such flares, otherwise known as fast radio bursts (FRBs), originate from magnetars.
This is reported by Science News. Discovered in 2007, FRBs are fleeting explosive events that last a fraction of a second, but during this time release as much energy as the Sun emits in a month.
"We think they are caused by some very compact object, such as a magnetar," said Alexa Gordon, an astronomer at Northwestern University in Evanston (USA).
Magnetars are a special type of neutron star formed after the death of massive stars. Magnetars are distinguished from ordinary neutron stars by a powerful magnetic field.
Previously, researchers have already noticed magnetar-producing FRBs in our galaxy, but it has not been proven that all such flares can be linked to magnetars.
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Gordon and her colleagues traced the origin of FRB 20220610A, which is the most powerful and distant FRB detected to date.
It turned out that the outburst originated from a cluster of seven galaxies located at a distance of 11 billion light-years from Earth. All of these galaxies are located in a region the size of the Milky Way.
"We were expecting to see some kind of monolithic spiral galaxy," admitted Wen-fai Fong, an astronomer at Northwestern University.
FRBs have been detected in various environments, including lonely galaxies and globular clusters. But this is the first time they have appeared from a cluster of seven galaxies.
Scientists suggest that such a chaotic environment could lead to galaxies exchanging gas, dust, and other materials, causing the birth of new stars. If a massive star formed and died in such conditions, its death could have left behind a magnetar, which potentially explains the appearance of FRBs.
Scientists intend to find evidence of the existence of a magnetar in a cluster of seven galaxies using the James Webb Space Telescope.