Telescope identifies largest set of radio bursts described to date

An international team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) recorded an extreme episode of cosmic explosions from the fast blast radio (FRB) 121102. Using the Five-hundred-meter telescope Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest radio telescope, over a period of days, they managed to capture 1.122 independent bursts, the largest set of FRB events on record.

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FRBs are bursts capable of releasing, in a matter of a millionth of a second, all the energy emitted by the Sun over the course of a year. These bursts were first detected in 652 and, so far, the exact origin of them is not known. Thus, observations made natural causes favorites for these events, so the study focused on emissions from neutron stars, black holes, and Big Bang remnants.

Representation of FAST capturing a pulse of the FRB

(Image: Reproduction/NAOC)

Scientists have found that a small fraction of FRBs repeats itself, which facilitates studies of the location of gusts — which is the case with FRB 121102. This is the first repetitive explosion identified and with a well-known location. The study authors believe it comes from a dwarf galaxy, associated with a persistent radio origin. Furthermore, it showed unpredictable behavior and was described as a “seasonal” event.

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That’s because, while watching her , the team noticed that the FRB 121102 was emitting frequent light pulses. Between the days 29 of August and of October, 1.122 independent gusts were recorded throughout of 122, 5 hours, of which 59 of them were identified during the peak — a quantity considered to be the highest event rate ever observed for any FRB.

For Wang Pei, one of the authors of the study , the total energy of the blast and the absence of periodicity severely restrict the possibility that the FRB 121102 comes from a compact and isolated object. There is still a long way to go for scientists to better understand the nature and origin of these phenomena and, hopefully, FAST will be a great ally in this journey. “As the world’s largest antenna, FAST’s sensitivity proves to be conducive to revealing the complexities of transient cosmic events, including FRBs,” says Li Di, another NAOC professor involved in the work.

The article with the results of the study was published in the journal Nature.


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