Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Aussie Telescope Almost Doubles Known Number of Fast Radio Bursts

By David Reneke

The number of known fast radio bursts has doubled, and a patent has brought a space elevator one step closer.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Australian researchers using a CSIRO radio telescope in Western Australia have nearly doubled the known number of mysterious fast radio bursts – powerful flashes of radio waves from deep space. The team’s discoveries include the closest and brightest fast radio bursts ever detected.

Fast radio bursts come from all over the sky, and last for just milliseconds. Scientists don’t know what causes them but it must involve energy equivalent to the amount released by the Sun in 80 years.

“We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007,” said Dr Ryan Shannon of Swinburne University of Technology and the OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence. Using the Australia Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), his team also proved that fast radio bursts are coming from the other side of the universe rather than from our own galactic neighbourhood.

Collaborator Dr Jean-Pierre Macquart of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research said bursts travel for billions of years and occasionally pass through clouds of gas. Eventually the burst reaches Earth, with its spread of wavelengths arriving at the telescope at slightly different times.

Because this study has shown that fast radio bursts come from far away, scientists can now use them to detect all the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.