02/22/2016: Fast Radio Bursts observed

2016-02-22 | Karen O'Neil

Cardinal_FRBs_2016The universe is a vast and mysterious space, filled with distant and puzzling objects, but UW-Madison physics professor Peter Timbie has played a huge role in helping to demystify it by giving us a deeper understanding of the incredibly rare cosmological phenomenon called Fast Radio Burst: a singular pulse of radio signal.

Timbie and his lab work with understanding the early universe, using large radio telescopes to detect the signals emitted by distant pulsars, which are neutron stars that emit regular and repeated radio wave signals across the universe.

During a radio survey using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in Green Bank, Va., they heard that a research group in Australia had detected over ten Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs. Timbie decided to analyze the data his team had already collected using the Green Bank Telescope, looking for any signs of previously unnoticed FRBs.

Using a new algorithm developed by members of Timbie’s lab, they were able to find one FRB in over 650 hours of archival data. That single FRB, found using the help of the Green Bank Telescope, has provided the clearest image yet of what a Fast Radio Burst is.

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