They locate a mysterious FRB signal ‘only’ 12 million light years

Two scientific articles report, for the first time, FRBs  that come from an unexpected place: a cluster of old stars that, moreover, is relatively close to us, in the spiral galaxy M 81.


Astronomers have been surprised by the closest source of mysterious flashes called fast radio bursts (FRBs) , located in the spiral galaxy M81 12 million light-years away.

Precision measurements with radio telescopes reveal that outbursts occur between old stars, and in a way no one expected.

Fast radio bursts ( FRBs ) are extremely short, unpredictable flashes of light from space . Astronomers have had trouble understanding them since they were first discovered in 2007. Until now, they have only been seen by radio telescopes.

Each flash lasts only thousandths of a second. However, each one sends out as much energy as the Sun emits in a day. Several hundred flashes go off every day and have been seen across the sky. Most are found at great distances from Earth, in galaxies billions of light years away.

The closest to the planet?

In two articles published in parallel this week in the journals Nature and Nature Astronomy, an international team of astronomers present observations that bring scientists one step closer to solving the mystery, while also raising new puzzles. The team is jointly led by Franz Kirsten (Chalmers, Sweden and ASTRON, The Netherlands) and Kenzie Nimmo (ASTRON and the University of Amsterdam).

Scientists set out to make high-precision measurements of a repeating burst source discovered in January 2020 in the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Dipper.