The fast radio burst mystery (Free Astronomy Public Lectures)


Most things in the universe happen over millions or even billions of years but some things change on the timescales of human life and can be seen to change in a matter of months, days, or even seconds. These sources are called transients and are some of the most extreme events in the Universe, things like the collapse of a dying star, or a collision of two massive objects. Humans have been observing astronomical transients for centuries, from supernovae to gamma ray bursts and, most recently, gravitational waves, but recent advances in telescope power and technology mean we’re observing more and more transients each year and even finding new types. In 2007 we discovered a brand new type of transient called fast radio bursts (FRBs), bright radio pulses that last only a few milliseconds. Their origin is one of the newest unsolved mysteries of astronomy but it is clear they are produced in tremendously energetic processes, possibly even billions of light years away. I will tell the story of their discovery, some of our most exciting new breakthroughs, and how new telescopes in Australia and around the world are poised to answer some of the big questions about FRBs in the next few years. Presented on 9 February 2018.

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The fast radio burst mystery (Free Astronomy Public Lectures)

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Emily Petroff (ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy)

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