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Monday, May 20, 2024

UW-Madison professor Peter Timbie worked with researchers from around the world to create the first picture of a fast radio burst. 

Cosmic radio bursts rendered for the first time

Researchers have produced the first detailed picture of a fast radio burst, aided by a UW-Madison physicist whose archived data helped inform where the energy blasts come from, according to a Wednesday university press release.

Fast radio bursts are brief, highly energetic pulses of radio waves originating somewhere in deep space, according to the release. Hundreds of hours of data from the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope helped piece together the researchers’ picture.

The new rendering of the event indicates the most recent burst possibly originated as a supernova remnant or the energetic environment of a stellar nursery.

It had traveled an estimated 6 billion light years to Earth.

With only 15 fast radio bursts recorded within a decade of discovering them, scientists have discovered they contain more energy than our galaxy’s sun emits over hundreds of thousands of years.

Peter Timbie, a UW-Madison professor of physics who worked on the project with other researchers from around the world, said the data to determine these facts had been present for a while but was not noticed because the proper algorithms did not exist.

He said the large volume of data flashing so briefly and traveling for such a long distance causes the signals to be “smeared out.”

Timbie said in the release the new data analysis software created by the researchers could make astronomical discoveries easier and more frequent. Timbie said in the release that the new data has already suggested fast radio bursts occur far more frequently than previously thought, possibly thousands of times a day.

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