Scientists have discovered as many as 535 mysterious fast radio bursts, or FRBs using a telescope, known as CHIME, for the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment. The oddly bright flashes of light register in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum in space and occur for a few milliseconds, the vanishes without a trace. These strange FRBs have been recorded in distant parts of the universe as well as in our own Milky Way galaxy but their origin has been a puzzle for the scientific fraternity.
In its first year of operation, the CHIME telescope detected more than 500 mysterious flashes called fast radio bursts — quadrupling the number of known events. Scientists now hope to pin down the causes of such ultrabright, ultrafast signals. https://t.co/CyOdlujeBL pic.twitter.com/633Hkkg4b8
— Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (@MIT) June 10, 2021
“Since the first was discovered in 2007, radio astronomers have only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their scopes,” the Massachusetts Institute of technology explained in a news release on June 10.
The observations of the radio bursts have quadrupled as more than 500 new fast radio bursts have been registered within just one year, between 2018 and 2019. When the CHIME scientists in collaboration with MIT researchers attempted to map their locations, they found the bursts were evenly distributed throughout the space, occurring at a rate of about 800 per day. But the fact that the fast radio bursts were detected by the CHIME telescope suggests that they must have been produced by extremely energetic sources, scientists said. They now plan to detect their dispersion estimates to map their distribution in the space.
Scientists have documented these newly detected signals in the telescope’s first FRB catalog, which they will present at the American Astronomical Society Meeting this week. Of the total fast radio, bursts identified there were majorly two categories detected. One that occurs consistently known as the repeaters and those that don’t, called the ‘offs’. Researchers found 18 FRB sources that were repeaters which were slightly different with each burst lasting slightly longer and emitting more focused radio frequencies.
“Before CHIME, there were less than 100 total discovered FRBs; now, after one year of observation, we’ve discovered hundreds more,” CHIME member Kaitlyn Shin, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Physics said in the MIT’s news release.
“With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events, and how they can be used to study the universe going forward.”
CHIME radio telescope
The CHIME radio telescope has at least four cylindrical radio antennas, located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, operated by the National Research Council of Canada in British Columbia, Canada. As the Earth rotates each day, the telescope receives signals. The stationary array focuses on incoming signals using a correlator — a powerful digital signaling processor that can work through huge amounts of data. The FRBs strike at the rate of 7 terabits per second, which is equivalent to a small percentage of the world’s internet traffic.
“Digital signal processing is what makes CHIME able to reconstruct and ‘look’ in thousands of directions simultaneously,” Kiyoshi Masui, assistant professor of physics at MIT said. “That’s what helps us detect FRBs a thousand times more often than a traditional telescope,” he added.
Most of the fast radio bursts occurred from far-off sources within distant galaxies, travelling across space, any interstellar gas, or plasma, along the way. This can, sometimes, distort or disperse the wave’s properties and trajectory. If the scientists could measure the degree to which a radio wave is dispersed, it can give clue about the amount of gas it passed and eventually the distance it travelled.
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