Making a Difference 2019-2020

For the first time, an ARC-supported team of researchers has determined the location of a one-off 'fast radio burst'. Scientists don’t know what causes these mysterious and intense radio bursts from outer space, but determining their location is a significant technical achievement and may help explain the cause of the phenomena. Since the discovery of fast radio bursts in 2007, 85 more bursts were identified by 2019, with each one appearing and then disappearing again within about 1 millisecond. Concerted follow-up of one special source that gave off ‘repeat’ bursts led to its localisation in 2017, but pinpointing the origin of one of the much more common ‘one-off’ bursts had not previously been achieved. The discovery was made with support from an ARC Discovery Projects grant led by Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart, based at Curtin University, and an ARC Future Fellowship awarded to Associate Professor MILLISECOND RADIO REFLEXES FIELD A CURVEBALL FROM DEEP SPACE “IF WE WERE TO STAND ON THE MOON AND LOOK DOWN AT THE EARTH WITH THIS PRECISION, WE WOULD BE ABLE TO TELL NOT ONLY WHICH CITY THE BURST CAME FROM, BUT WHICH POSTCODE—AND EVEN WHICH CITY BLOCK,” SAYS CSIRO RESEARCHER, DR KEITH BANNISTER.

Adam Deller, who is based at Swinburne University of Technology. They pinpointed the burst to the outskirts of a Milky Way-sized galaxy about 3.6 billion light-years away. The discovery was made using the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope in Western Australia, and the home galaxy was subsequently imaged by three of the world's largest optical telescopes. In 2020 a new ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant was awarded to the team that will provide a major increase in performance to the Parkes radio telescope, particularly in sensitivity and survey speed, to aid in future observations of Fast Radio Bursts and other deep space phenomena.

CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope, located at CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. Credit: CSIRO/Dragonfly Media.



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