Radio “heartbeat” teases Fast Radio Burst origins

A recent article in Sky and Telescope shared the latest observations of Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope, located in British Columbia.

CHIME is constructing a smaller version its main telescope at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO). This new outrigger will work in tandem with other CHIME instruments to better locate the position of FRBs by triangulating their signals, similar to the way cell phone GPS works.

The new CHIME instrument under construction at the Green Bank Observatory. Credit NSF/GBO/Jill Malusky.

“The CHIME telescope can currently locate the position of a fast radio burst to a patch of sky equivalent to the size of the full Moon,” adds Patrick Boyle (McGill University, Canada), who is managing the CHIME/FRB Outriggers project. “With the addition of the new outrigger telescopes, this patch of sky can be reduced to the size of a quarter held at roughly 40 km.”

This improvement to CHIME’s ability to observe and locate FRBs will yield more definitive information about their origins.

FRBs are extremely powerful flashes of radio waves that typically last only a few milliseconds. They are usually detected as singular events, but a few have been found to repeat. The FRB most recently observed by CHIME, and reported in the July issue of Nature, was unique in that it lasted much longer than the average FRB, and that it pulsed like a heartbeat. These and other peculiar characteristics provide some evidence that this strange FRB may have been produced by a neutron star.

Read the entire story from Sky and Telescope here.