The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) has detected a tremendous 20 of the mysterious signals known as fast radio bursts.
They also include the brightest and closest fast radio bursts ever detected.
“We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007”, said lead author Dr Ryan Shannon, from Swinburne University of Technology and the OzGrav ARC Centre of Excellence.
“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.”
Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are one of space’s most intriguing mysteries. They are extremely powerful, generating as much energy as hundreds of millions of Suns.
FRBs are extremely short, lasting for few milliseconds, and most of them only occur once. This means they can’t be predicted, so it’s not like astronomers are able to plan observations.
The bursts also travel for billions of years and occasionally pass through clouds of gas, said study co-author Dr Jean-Pierre Macquart from Curtin University.
CSIRO’s Dr Keith Bannister, who engineered the systems that detected the bursts, said ASKAP’s phenomenal discovery rate is down to two things. “The telescope has a whopping field of view of 30 square degrees, 100 times larger than the full Moon. And, by using the telescope’s dish antennas in a radical way, with each pointing at a different part of the sky, we observed 240 square degrees all at once—about a thousand times the area of the full Moon. ASKAP is astoundingly good for this work.”
ASKAP is located at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia, and is a precursor for the future Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope.
The SKA could observe large numbers of fast radio bursts, giving astronomers a way to study the early Universe in detail.