A radio telescope, inaugurated last year, has detected its first fast radio burst (FRB), giving astronomers a powerful weapon for studying these mysterious events.
The 2-millisecond-long signal, announced on 1 August, heralds an expected deluge for the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME): once fully operational, CHIME should record more than a dozen FRBs per day. Astrophysicists have proposed a number of explanations for these events — which are fast bursts of radio energy — from evaporating black holes to erupting neutron stars, but data have been scarce so far.
CHIME consists of 4 reflectors shaped like half-pipes, each 100 metres long. Its primary science goal is to map the density of interstellar hydrogen across the Universe in the epoch between 10 billion and 8 billion years ago.