Using CSIRO’s 64 metre Parkes radio telescope in eastern Australia, Swinburne University of Technology PhD student Emily Petroff has for the first time seen a ‘fast radio burst’ – a short, sharp flash of radio waves from an unknown source – happening live.
Lasting only milliseconds, the first such radio burst was discovered in 2007 by astronomers combing the Parkes data archive for unrelated objects. Six more bursts, apparently from outside our Galaxy, have now been found with the Parkes telescope and a seventh with the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico.
Astronomers worldwide have been vying to explain the phenomenon.
“These bursts were generally discovered week, months or even more than a decade after they happened,” Ms Petroff said.
“We are the first to catch one in real time.”