The Atlantic

A Howling Cosmic Signal Came From a Faraway Galaxy

Astronomers get closer to understanding one of the most perplexing phenomena in the universe.
Source: CSIRO / Alex Cherney

They never would have found it if Tony hadn’t gotten sick.

In September, astronomers were scanning the night sky with a radio telescope in Australia. They were looking for mysterious, powerful signals that originate well beyond the Milky Way and deep in space. Thousands of these signals, known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs, reach the planet each day, but they’re not easy to detect. The signals arrive without warning, flash for a few milliseconds, and then vanish.

The astronomers had anticipated catching at least a few bursts. Two weeks into the

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