(ORDO NEWS) — Thanks to an analysis of fast radio bursts (FRBs) by astrophysicist Amanda Cook of the University of Toronto, the Milky Way’s halo contains significantly less gas than previously thought.
By investigating mysterious cosmic signals called fast radio bursts (FRBs), astronomers have made a breakthrough in understanding the Milky Way’s halo.
A study by Amanda Cook of the University of Toronto shows that the gaseous halo surrounding our galaxy contains far less gas than previously thought.
Brief bursts of FRB radio waves emanating from mysterious celestial objects are considered one of the most inexplicable mysteries of astronomy.
These cosmic phenomena simultaneously produce high frequency (blue light equivalent) and low frequency (red light equivalent) radio waves.
However, when passing through the gas, high frequency waves slow down more than their low frequency counterparts, resulting in a delay in their arrival at the telescope.
Astronomers call this blurring in time “scattering” and use it to detect gas otherwise undetectable in space.
According to the University of Toronto, Cooke compares the study of dispersion with the analysis of your home’s heating bill to understand what the weather was like in winter, that is, whether the winter was, on average, harsh or mild.
Likewise, the observed dispersion allows astronomers to determine the total amount of material that the FRB signal encountered on its way from the source to Earth, without determining the distribution of material along the way.
Cook used the scattering method to measure the gas content of the Milky Way’s halo, which extends half a million light-years in all directions.
The team used FRB signals collected by Canada’s Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope and found that the Milky Way’s halo contains significantly less gas than previously thought.
Now Cook and her team plan to create a 3D map of the Milky Way’s halo by collecting additional FRB data. Each FRB provides a measurement of the halo in one direction, allowing a comprehensive picture to be built over time.
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