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Aussie telescope detects record, fast radio bursts from deep space

Flashes of radio waves come from all over the sky and last for just milliseconds

SYDNEY.

Australian researchers on Thursday said they have detected a record number of mysterious radio waves from space.

These included the closest and fastest of such bursts ever found, that may help shed more light on the matter between galaxies.

"We’ve found 20 fast radio bursts in a year, almost doubling the number detected worldwide since they were discovered in 2007," said Dr Ryan Shannon from the Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria state capital Melbourne.

Shannon led the report on the signals detected with a high-powered telescope in Western Australia.

The flashes of radio waves come from all over the sky and last for just milliseconds and while their exact causes are not yet known they are thought to come from the other side of the universe and involve incredible energy, equivalent to the amount released by the sun in 80 years, said the researchers.

The bursts also travel for billions of years and occasionally pass through clouds of gas, said study co-author Dr Jean-Pierre Macquart from Curtin University.

"Timing the arrival of the different wavelengths tells us how much material the burst has traveled through on its journey," he said.

"And because we’ve shown that fast radio bursts come from far away, we can use them to detect all the missing matter located in the space between galaxies which is a really exciting discovery."

The next challenge for the researchers, whose findings were reported in scientific journal Nature, is to pinpoint the locations of bursts on the sky.

"We’ll be able to localize the bursts to better than a thousandth of a degree," said Shannon.

"That’s about the width of a human hair seen 10 meters away, and good enough to tie each burst to a particular galaxy."

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