Mysterious fast radio bursts are coming in intense and fast, a boon to astronomers

Mysterious fast radio bursts are coming in intense and fast, a boon to astronomers
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The discovery of the three-second “fast radio burst” reported last week by Michilli and other researchers in the journal NatureIt was the latest addition to growing research on mysterious bursts of radio signals discovered only 15 years ago.

Fast radio bursts are flashes of radio waves that typically last milliseconds. They are so powerful that they can be observed from billions of light-years away. (A light-year is the distance light can travel in a year, or about 6 trillion miles.)

After that first report In 2007, however, reports from others were slow to come. As of 2019, researchers report in a Check out the article in The Astronomy and Astrophysics ReviewAlthough the researchers estimated that one detectable explosion occurs somewhere in the sky every minute, less than a hundred have been found.

The researchers got a big boost from the Canadian Hydrogen Density Mapping Experiment, a revolutionary new Canadian radio telescope. Launched in 2018, CHIME was designed to collect radio waves emitted by hydrogen in the earliest stages of the universe. It is also an excellent detector of fast radio bursts. According to the CHIME website, it had detected more than 1,000 people by mid-2020. “An event rate that high promises great progress in this amazing new astrophysical phenomenon.” website said.

CHIME is “truly the premier tool for finding fast radio bursts all over the world,” said Emily Petroff, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and the University of Amsterdam, project manager for the CHIME/FRB (Fast Radio Burst) Collaboration.

Prior to joining CHIME, Petroff was one of the authors of the 2019 Astronomy and Astrophysics Review article, which predicted that CHIME would make a big impact in the field. “It was super successful. It’s even more successful than we anticipated,” he said in a phone call.

The latest discovery was the product of collaboration. MIT Professor Kiyoshi Masui is one of the members of the collaboration, and Michilli was studying the CHIME data as one of the researchers in Masui’s group.

The burst, designated FRB 20191221A, is the longest sustained fast radio burst. MIT said it has the clearest periodic pattern detected to date, with nine signal peaks regularly spaced about 0.2 second apart.

Researchers suspect that the signals could come from anywhere. radio pulsar or a magnetartwo types neutron starsThey are the collapsed cores of massive stars.

Michilli said it’s difficult but possible to use multiple telescopes to triangulate and locate the point in the sky where the signals came from. It has been done in about 15 cases so far, and the emissions have been confirmed to come from other galaxies.

CHIME said it plans to build more telescopes in the United States and Canada so that each fast radio burst — currently several per day — can be deployed.

The scientists said they wanted to learn more in two areas. They want to know how the signals came about. “What produces these is the first mystery,” Michilli said.

They also want to analyze the distortions in radio signals and obtain narrative clues about the characteristics. plasma – the gas-like collection of atoms and ions in space – that the signals pass through on their incredibly long journey to Earth.

Petroff said analyzing fast radio bursts could help researchers “understand what material they’re passing through in the universe, what makes up the seemingly empty spaces between galaxies.”

Michilli said the signals may actually be “probes to probe the universe.”

Martin Finucane can be reached at:

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