Scientists can now track fast radio bursts in real time

(ORDO NEWS) — In the Okanagan Valley outside Penticton, British Columbia, there is a huge radio observatory dedicated to observing cosmic radio phenomena.

It is called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) and is a cylindrical parabolic radio telescope. This array is part of the Dominion Radio astrophysical Observatory (DRAO), overseen by the National Research Council (NRC).

The observatory was originally intended to detect radio waves of neutral hydrogen gas in the early universe. Today it is used for other purposes, such as detecting and studying fast radio bursts .

Since it started, CHIME scientists have been busy studying terabytes of data to pinpoint signals, often detecting several in a single day.

To help with all of this data collection and coordinate CHIME’s efforts with other entities around the world, scientists at McGill University have developed a new system to share the massive amounts of CHIME-generated data.

The first fast radio burst, the famous Lorimer Burst, was discovered in 2007 by West Virginia University astronomer Duncan Lorimer and colleagues using the Parkes Radio Telescope.

Since then, short-lived radio pulses, which often last for milliseconds, have become a source of mystery and intrigue for astronomers.

Before CHIME went live in 2018, astronomers found only a few dozen FRBs. Since then, CHIME has been responsible for detecting over 1000 signals!

Daily CHIME observations can yield up to a terabyte of raw data per day, which requires a small army of researchers and large computing power to analyze them for potential signals.

Moreover, since most radio bursts last only a few milliseconds and do not recur, it is very difficult for other observatories to tune their instruments on the source before it disappears.

But with the new data exchange system, key details of each burst can be sent to observatories around the world in real time.


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