Canada’s Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment radio telescope could offer
the first set of regular data from fast radio bursts.
(September 18, 2015) If only calculating the distance between Earth and far-off galaxies was as easy as pulling out the old measuring tape. Now UBC researchers are proposing a new way to calculate distances in the cosmos using mysterious bursts of energy.
In a study featured today in the journal Physical Review Letters, UBC researchers propose a new way to calculate cosmological distances using the bursts of energy also known as fast radio bursts. The method allows researchers to position distant galaxies in three dimensions and map out the cosmos.
“We’ve introduced the idea of using these new phenomena to study cosmological objects in the universe,” said Kiyoshi Masui, a postdoctoral fellow at UBC and a global scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “We believe we’ll be able to use these flashes to put together a picture of how galaxies are spread through space.”
Some unknown astrophysical phenomenon is causing these bursts of energy that appear as a short flashes of radio waves. While only 10 fast radio bursts have ever been recorded, scientists believe there could be thousands of them a day.
As these fast radio bursts travel toward Earth, they spread out and arrive at different times based on their wavelengths. The researchers propose using the delay between the arrival times of different frequencies to map the cosmos. The amount of spread in the signal that arrives on Earth gives scientists a sense of how many electrons, and by extension how much material including stars, gas and dark matter, are in between Earth and the source of the burst.