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Telescope spots enigmatic fast radio burst

A Canadian radio telescope called CHIME is poised to record dozens of fast radio bursts each day.

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Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment

Credit: CHIME Collaboration

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.

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