Three and a half billion years ago, a mysterious object on the edge of a distant galaxy spewed forth an intensely bright, vanishingly brief burst of radio energy that shot across the universe.

Then, for less than a millisecond in 2018, that burst zapped past a special telescope in Earth's Australian outback, giving scientists a rare opportunity to shake hands with one of the most mysterious forms of energy in the universe.

It's the first time that astronomers have successfully tracked a one-off FRB back to its origins across space and time, according to the authors of a study published today (June 27) in the journal Science.

Understanding where FRBs come from allows scientists to probe the vast tracts of matter between their host galaxies and Earth, and maybe even locate undiscovered pockets of protons and neutrons thought to be lurking between galaxies.

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"These bursts are altered by the matter they encounter in space," study co-author Jean-Pierre Macquart, a researcher at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said in a statement.

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