What is a fast radio burst?

What is a fast radio burst?


[Music plays] (Dr Bannister) A fast radio burst is very much like what it sounds. It’s a very fast burst of radio waves. It comes from outer space, a long way away. And by fast, I mean really fast. So it starts and stops in about a thousandth of a second, so you click your fingers, and it’s finished. Fast radio bursts are a real mystery. We don’t exactly understand where they come from, or what actually makes them. And there’s a lot of open questions that we really don’t have an answer for. There are probably more theories about what makes fast radio bursts, than there are actual detections of these things. So since 2007 we’ve only had 20, but there are probably 30 or 40 different theories on what makes them. The most interesting thing about this burst is the fact that we found it with the Australian square kilometre ray path finder. So that is, it wasn’t really obvious that we would be able to do this, as well as we ended up being able to do it. So this telescope is really a fantastic telescope. In fact it’s probably the best telescope on the planet at the moment for finding these bursts. So whereas in the past it’s taken ten years to find twenty bursts, once we’re really going with this new instrument, we’ll be able to find them much more quickly. One or two every week. And that will blow open the field. We’ll be able to do much more detailed studies of these things, get better statistics, understand what, hopefully understand what they are, and where they’re coming from. So the thing that’s most interesting about this burst is the fact that it heralds a new era. Not only for the telescope, but for the whole field, where we’ll be able to actually have lots more things to play with. That’s probably the most important thing. I liken it a little bit to the Saron of space, the all-seeing eye, because we see so much of the sky, in comparison with other telescopes, we really can catch these things really easily. When you can find a whole bunch really quickly, which is what we can do now with the Australian square kilometre array pathfinder, we’ll be able to get a nice uniform set that we can start to do some statistics with. So a classic thing we can do is measure how many really bright ones there are, versus how many faint ones, and that tells us whether the things that we’re looking at come from fairly nearby, or really far away in the universe. Much further than we might even think. [Music plays]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *