MIT scientists have detected more than 500 fast radio bursts, super-bright flashes of invisible light coming from a mysterious origin, using the new Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in its first year of operation. Fast radio bursts are flashes of electromagnetic waves — light — in the radio band, which flare up for a few seconds. However, one such flash, in one millisecond, releases energy equivalent to what the sun produces in three days. Scientists have spotted these momentary blazes in many different parts of the universe, including our galaxy. Astronomers believe that these bursts are coming from very strong and mysterious astrophysical phenomena. According to astrophysicists, these phenomena are not so uncommon. “If your eyes could see radio flashes the way you can see camera flashes, you would see them all the time if you just looked up,” said Kiyoshi Masui, one of the researchers and assistant professor of physics, in a news release by MIT.
Fast radio bursts were first discovered in 2007 and despite catching 140 of them, scientists have not been able to solve their mystery and they remain unpredictable in appearance and unknown in origin. However, the new telescope has multiplied the observed phenomena by five times with 535 new detections in a single year period — 2018 to 2019.
“With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole,” said Kaitlyn Shin, one of the researchers and member of CHIME, in the news release. The researchers presented the findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting on June 9.
Scientists hope that the new telescope would soon help them discover more properties of fast radio bursts and know more about the possible sources they are coming from.