Using Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization radio telescopes, scientists in Western Australia have found 20 Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) over the past year, nearly doubling the known number of FRBs.
These bursts are powerful flashes of radio waves from deep space which only last for a few milliseconds.
The latest discoveries have been published in the journal Nature and also include the closest and brightest FRBs ever discovered.
“Using the new technology of the Australia Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), we’ve also proved that fast radio bursts are coming from the other side of the Universe, rather than from our own galactic neighborhood”, said the study’s lead author Dr. Ryan Shannon from Swineburg University of Technology.
So far scientists don’t know what causes FRBs, however, they believe it must involve incredibly large amounts of energy, equivalent to the amount released by the sun over an 80-year period.
The study’s co-author Dr. Jean-Pierre Macquart of the Curtin University node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said these bursts travel for billions of years, occasionally passing through clouds of gas. He added that everytime this happens, the different wavelengths that make up a burst are slowed down by different amounts.
By timing the arrival of different wavelengths, scientists can tell how much matter the burst has traveled through on its journey. This way, they can also be used to detect matter located between galaxies.
Dr. Shannon and his team’s next challenge will be to pinpoint the location of FRBs in the sky.
“We’ll be able to localize the bursts to better than a thousandth of a degree,” he says.