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Radio astronomy breaks new barriers

Cite Magazine
Issue 22 - Summer 2013

Curtin astrophysicist Dr Ramesh Bhat believes the detection of a number of fast radio bursts (FRBs), possibly arising from high-energy explosions billions of light years away, could revolutionise the way we understand the Universe in coming decades.

Radio telescope

Bhat, from Curtin’s Department of Imaging and Applied Physics, says the bursts light up for very short durations – about a few thousandths of a second – and would have occurred when the Universe was much younger. He says their energies, durations and distances are such that scientists may be able to use them as powerful tools to measure the amount of normal matter in the Universe.

“Such bursts are probably striking our Earth every day, but they are hard to detect with our limited telescope range and field-of-view,” he says.

He recently co-authored a paper on the subject with a team of international scientists in the journal Science.

Bhat and his research team used the Parkes radio telescope, in New South Wales, to discover four such bursts. Three more bursts have been found since the paper was published last month.

He says the Murchison Widefield Array project – involving a consortium of 13 international institutions and led by Curtin that will create the groundbreaking low-frequency radio telescope for the Square Kilometre Array – will make a significant contribution towards finding more FRBs in the future.