Nav: Home

Deep-space flashes light up a new face of nature

July 07, 2013

CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope has detected brief flashes of radio emission from the distant Universe. Their origin is unknown.

CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope in eastern Australia has detected mysterious 'flashes' of radio energy from the distant Universe that may open up a whole new area of astrophysics. The surprising finding, made by a team of scientists from ten institutions in Australia, the USA, UK, Germany and Italy, is published in today's issue of the journal Science.

"Staggeringly, we estimate there could be one of these flashes going off every ten seconds somewhere in the sky," said research team member Dr Simon Johnston, Head of Astrophysics at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

Four flashes were detected, each from a different direction and each lasting for only a millisecond (a thousandth of a second).

The characteristics of the radio signal -- how it is 'smeared out' in frequency from travelling through space -- indicate that the flashes came from up to 11 billion light-years away.

No gamma rays or X-rays were detected in association with the flashes, and the astronomers have ruled out the flashes being from phenomena such as gamma-ray bursts, the merger of two neutron stars, merging black holes, or evaporating black holes.

Dan Thornton, a PhD student with the University of Manchester and CSIRO, is the lead author on the Science paper. "A single burst of radio emission of unknown origin was detected outside our galaxy about six years ago but no one was certain what it was or even if it was real," he said. "So we have spent the last four years searching for more of these explosive, short-duration radio bursts."

That original radio flash, known as the 'Lorimer burst' after its discoverer, was also found with CSIRO's Parkes telescope.

"Finding these things requires both a sensitive telescope and spending enough time looking, and that's what we've done with Parkes," said Dr Johnston.

CSIRO's Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, now under construction in Western Australia, will be running a major survey for transient radio sources like the ones just found with Parkes.

"With the ability to detect these very fast sources we are opening up a whole new area of astrophysics," said Dr Johnston.

CSIRO Australia

Related Astrophysics Articles:

Radio astronomers peer deep into the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula
Astronomers have released an image of a 50-light-year-long filament of star-forming gas, 1200 light-years away, in the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula.
Geology and biology agree on Pangaea supercontinent breakup dates
Scientists at The Australian National University have found that independent estimates from geology and biology agree on the timing of the breakup of the Pangaea supercontinent into today's continents.
Top high-energy prize awarded to LSU physicist and LIGO scientist Gabriela González
The 2017 Rossi Prize has been awarded to Gabriela González and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for the first direct detections of gravitational waves, for the discovery of merging black hole binaries and for beginning the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy.
Lars Bildsten wins 2017 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics
The American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society announced today, on behalf of the Heineman Foundation for Research, Educational, Charitable, and Scientific Purposes, that California astrophysicist Lars Bildsten is the winner of the 2017 Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, a distinguished honor awarded annually to recognize significant contributions to the field.
Finding inspiration in the stars
Lars Bildsten, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, wins the 2017 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics.
ANU helps find supercluster of galaxies near Milky Way
The Australian National University is part of an international team of astronomers that found one of the Universe's biggest superclusters of galaxies near the Milky Way.
Newly formed stars shoot out powerful whirlwinds
Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have used the ALMA telescopes to observe the early stages in the formation of a new solar system.
Vanderbilt physicists Keivan Stassun and Kalman Varga elected APS Fellows
Two Vanderbilt physicists, Keivan Stassun and Kalman Varga, have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society.
Breaking up: a convoluted drama at nuclear scale, too
Regardless of the scenario, breaking up is dramatic. Take the case of carbon splitting into three nuclei of helium.
Chaos in cosmos: Stars with three planet-forming discs of gas
A star with a ring of planets orbiting around it - that is the picture we know from our own solar system and from many of the thousands of exoplanets observed in recent years.

Related Astrophysics Reading:

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by W. W. Norton & Company

An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics
by Bradley W. Carroll (Author), Dale A. Ostlie (Author)

Calculating the Cosmos: How Mathematics Unveils the Universe
by Ian Stewart (Author)

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author), Michael A. Strauss (Author), J. Richard Gott (Author)

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene (Author)

Introduction to Astrophysics: The Stars (Dover Books on Physics)
by Jean Dufay (Author), Owen Gingerich (Translator)

by Carl Sagan (Author), Ann Druyan (Introduction), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Introduction)

Astrophysics for Babies (Baby University)
by Chris Ferrie (Author), Julia Kregenow (Author)

Astrophysics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by James Binney (Author)

Principles of Astrophysics: Using Gravity and Stellar Physics to Explore the Cosmos (Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics)
by Charles Keeton (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Story Behind The Numbers
Is life today better than ever before? Does the data bear that out? This hour, TED speakers explore the stories we tell with numbers — and whether those stories portray the full picture. Guests include psychologist Steven Pinker, economists Tyler Cowen and Michael Green, journalist Hanna Rosin, and environmental activist Paul Gilding.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#486 Volcanoes
This week we're talking volcanoes. Because there are few things that fascinate us more than the amazing, unstoppable power of an erupting volcano. First, Jessica Johnson takes us through the latest activity from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to help us understand what's happening with this headline-grabbing volcano. And Janine Krippner joins us to highlight some of the lesser-known volcanoes that can be found in the USA, the different kinds of eruptions we might one day see at them, and how damaging they have the potential to be. Related links: Kilauea status report at USGS A beginner's guide to Hawaii's otherworldly...