A fast radio burst localized to a massive galaxy

Abstract

Intense, millisecond-duration bursts of radio waves (named fast radio bursts) have been detected from beyond the Milky Way1. Their dispersion measures—which are greater than would be expected if they had propagated only through the interstellar medium of the Milky Way—indicate extragalactic origins and imply contributions from the intergalactic medium and perhaps from other galaxies2. Although several theories exist regarding the sources of these fast radio bursts, their intensities, durations and temporal structures suggest coherent emission from highly magnetized plasma3,4. Two of these bursts have been observed to repeat5,6, and one repeater (FRB 121102) has been localized to the largest star-forming region of a dwarf galaxy at a cosmological redshift of 0.19 (refs. 7,8,9). However, the host galaxies and distances of the hitherto non-repeating fast radio bursts are yet to be identified. Unlike repeating sources, these events must be observed with an interferometer that has sufficient spatial resolution for arcsecond localization at the time of discovery. Here we report the localization of a fast radio burst (FRB 190523) to a few-arcsecond region containing a single massive galaxy at a redshift of 0.66. This galaxy is different from the host of FRB 121102, as it is a thousand times more massive, with a specific star-formation rate (the star-formation rate divided by the mass) a hundred times smaller.

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Fig. 1: Time-frequency data on FRB 190523.
Fig. 2: Images of the sky location of FRB 190523.
Fig. 3: Modelling of the host galaxy of FRB 190523.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

Custom code is made available at https://github.com/VR-DSA.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the staff of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory, including J. Lamb, K. Hudson, A. Rizo and M. Virgin, for their assistance with the construction of the DSA-10. We thank A. Readhead for supporting the initiation of the DSA-10 project. We also thank A. Soliman for assistance with the development of the DSA-10 receivers. A portion of this research was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a President and Directors Fund grant and under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This research was additionally supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant AST-1836018. V.R. acknowledges support as a Millikan Postdoctoral Scholar in Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, and from a Clay Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. S.G.D. acknowledges partial support from NSF grant AST-1815034 and NASA grant 16-ADAP16-0232. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA. The Observatory was made possible by the financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. This research made use of Astropy, a community-developed core Python package for astronomy. The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys (PS1) and the PS1 public science archive have been made possible through contributions by the Institute for Astronomy, the University of Hawaii, the Pan-STARRS Project Office, the Max-Planck Society and its participating institutes, the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Johns Hopkins University, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network Incorporated, the National Central University of Taiwan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, NASA under grant NNX08AR22G issued through the Planetary Science Division of the NASA Science Mission Directorate, NSF grant AST-1238877, the University of Maryland, Eotvos Lorand University, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Contributions

G.H., V.R. and H.K.V. conceived of and developed the DSA-10 concept and observing strategy. V.R., J.K. and S.R.K. led the construction and initial deployment of DSA-10. D.P.W., S.W, L.D., J.K., V.R., H.K.V, M.C., R.H. and J.S. designed and built the DSA-10 subsystems. V.R. and H.K.V. commissioned the DSA-10. V.R. operated the DSA-10 and analysed the data. S.G.D. carried out the optical observations. V.R. analysed the optical data, and led the writing of the manuscript with the assistance of all co-authors.

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Correspondence to V. Ravi.

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Peer review information Nature thanks Shami Chatterjee and Jason Hessels for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 DSA-10 images.

Dirty and deconvolved images are shown of two bright point-sources and FRB 190523. All data were obtained at the same hour angle relative to the meridian, within 12 h of each other. The same calibration solution, derived using the J1200 + 7300 data, was applied to all data. The black crosses indicate the known source positions in the top and middle rows, and the best-fit position of FRB 190523 in the bottom row. The recovery of the correct position of J1927 + 7358 at the hour angle that FRB 190523 was detected at demonstrates the accuracy of the calibration solutions.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Visibility phases measured for two bright point-sources and FRB 190523.

Only data on baselines including fully functioning antennas are shown. The visibility data were phase-rotated to the known (or best-fit for FRB 190523) source positions, and averaged across the frequency band. Data on the shortest baselines (to the left of the dashed vertical line) were corrupted by correlated noise, and were discarded from imaging analysis. All data were calibrated using the same calibration solution, which was partially based on the J1200 + 7300 data, and were obtained at the same hour angle relative to the meridian within a 12-h timeframe. The x axis shows the baseline lengths in units of wavelengths at the middle of the DSA-10 frequency band.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Recovered positions of J1927 + 7358 on 12 separate days.

Each position was derived from 5 min of visibility data, extracted when J1927 + 7358 was at the same hour angle as FRB 190523 was detected. On each day, the data were also calibrated in exactly the same way as the FRB 190523 data. The error bars indicate the 68% (1σ) confidence intervals for the estimated positions.

Extended Data Table 1 ITRF coordinates for the ten DSA-10 antennas

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Ravi, V., Catha, M., D’Addario, L. et al. A fast radio burst localized to a massive galaxy. Nature 572, 352–354 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1389-7

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