“This is the big breakthrough that the field has been waiting for since astronomers discovered fast radio bursts in 2007”
In a major breakthrough, scientists have been able to pinpoint exactly where the waves are coming from using three of the world’s largest optical telescopes.
An Australian-led international team made the discovery and the aim now is to understand the causes of fast radio bursts.
There are many theories which even include that they come from extraterrestrial civilisations.
Keith Bannister, of Australia’s national science agency, said: ”This is the big breakthrough that the field has been waiting for since astronomers discovered fast radio bursts in 2007.
“If we were to stand on the Moon and look down at the Earth with this precision we would be able to tell not only which city the burst came from but which postcode and even which city block.”
Only 85 cosmic radio wave bursts have been detected since 2007.
Some are “repeaters” and two years ago scientists were able to find its home galaxy but this is the first time that it has been done with a “one-off” ripple.
Radio bursts can last less than a millisecond.
Dr Adam Deller, from the Swinburne University of Technology, said: “The burst we localised and its host galaxy look nothing like the “repeater” and its host.
“It comes from a massive galaxy that is forming relatively few stars.
“This suggests that fast radio bursts can be produced in a variety of environments or that the seemingly one-off bursts detected so far by ASKAP (an array of multiple dish antennas) are generated by a different mechanism to the repeater.”
ASKAP was able to freeze and save the data less than a second after the burst arrived at the telescope from the home galaxy.
Dr Deller said: “From these tiny time differences, just a fraction of a billionth of a second, we identified the burst’s home galaxy and even its exact starting point, 13,000 light years out from the galaxy’s centre in the galactic suburbs.”