Cosmic radio pulses explore hidden matter around galaxies

(ORDO NEWS) — Powerful radio pulses originating in the depths of space can be used to study the hidden gas associations of nearby galaxies.

So-called fast radio bursts, or FRs, are bursts of radio waves that typically occur at millions to billions of light-years away (radio waves are electromagnetic radiation, similar to the light we see with our eyes, but with a longer wavelength and frequency).

As BRs keep getting bigger, researchers are wondering how they can be used to study the gas between us and flares. In particular, they would like to use BR to study diffuse gas halos that surround galaxies.

It is expected that when radio pulses are directed towards the Earth, the gas that envelops the galaxies slows down the waves and scatters the radio frequencies.

In the new study, the scientists looked at a sample of 474 distant BRs detected by CHIME (it found the largest number of BRs to date) and showed that a subset of the two dozen BRs that passed through galactic halos actually slowed down more than non-overlapping BRs.

“Our study shows that BRs can act as all-matter warps between our radio telescopes and the source of radio waves,” says lead author Liam Connor, Tolman Research Associate of Astronomy.

The study also reports that more matter has been detected around galaxies than expected – in particular, about twice as much gas as predicted by theoretical models.

All galaxies are surrounded by and fed by massive accumulations of gas from which they were born. However, the gas is very rarefied and difficult to detect.

“These gas reservoirs are huge. If the human eye could see the spherical halo that surrounds the nearby Andromeda galaxy, it would appear to be a thousand times larger than the moon,” says Connor.

Researchers have developed various methods for studying hidden halos. For example, an instrument called the Keck Cosmic Webb Imager (KCWI), which can examine the filaments of gas entering galaxies from halos.

A flood of BR discoveries is expected in the future. Caltech’s 110-beam Deep Synoptic Array, or DSA-110, has already detected several BRs and identified host galaxies.

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