Washington: Australia astronomers have, for the first time, captured cosmic radio burst in real-time by using CSIRO's 64-m Parkes radio telescope.
Researcher Emily Petroff from University of Technology in Melbourne said that these bursts were generally discovered weeks or months or even more than a decade after they happened and they're the first to catch one in real time.
Banking that she'd spot a "live" burst, Petroff had an international team poised to make rapid follow-up observations, at wavelengths from radio to X-rays.
After Parkes saw the burst go off the team swung into action on twelve telescopes around the world, in Australia, California, the Canary Islands, Chile, Germany, Hawaii, and India and in space.
Team member Mansi Kasliwal of the Carnegie Institution in Pasadena, California said that no optical, infrared, ultraviolet or X-ray counterpart showed up and that in itself rules out some possible candidates, such as long gamma-ray bursts and nearby supernovae.
But short or low-energy gamma-ray bursts and giant flares from distant magnetars (the most magnetic stars in the Universe) are still contenders, she added. So too are imploding neutron stars.
One of the big unknowns of fast radio bursts is their distances and the characteristics of the radio signal, how it is "smeared out" in frequency from travelling through space, indicate that the source of the new burst was up to 5.5 billion light-years away.
Team member Daniele Malesani of the University of Copenhagen added that this means it could have given off as much energy in a few milliseconds as the Sun does in a day.
The study is published in the Royal Astronomical Society.