Detected for the first time in 2007, rapid radio bursts (or FRBs – Fast Radio Burst) still conceal many mysteries. Of unknown origin and unpredictable, these flashes of light are observed with attention by a new generation radio telescope, in order to learn more about these phenomena from remote areas of the universe as well as from our own galaxy.
The CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope, based in southwestern Canada, has identified 535 rapid radio bursts in one year of operation, thus completing the – limited – catalog of the first 140 spotted since 2007. “To see a rapid radio burst, you have to be extremely lucky as to where and when you aim your radio dish,” MIT said in a June 9 statement. You also have to be quick, because these flashes “ignite for a few milliseconds before disappearing without leaving a trace”. Yet there are many, around 800 per day across the sky, according to MIT estimates.
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The scientific studies carried out using CHIME made it possible to develop a “catalog” of FRB of the telescope, presented during the congress of the American astronomical society. It will make it possible to “considerably” expand the current library on FRBs and to deepen knowledge of their properties. The recent study has thus made it possible to highlight two types of rapid radio bursts: those which are repeated and the isolated cases. “These observations strongly suggest that the repeaters and the punctuates originate from separate astrophysical mechanisms and sources,” explains MIT. Further studies to come should help determine the origins of these bright signals.
Unlike most radio telescopes, which rotate to focus light from the sky, CHIME is a fixed, stationary array, made up of four cylindrical radio antennas. The use of the telescope to detect FRBs should also make it possible to map the distribution of gas in the Universe.
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