Pin It

For a decade, astronomers have puzzled over ephemeral but incredibly powerful radio bursts from space.

The phenomena, known as fast radio bursts or FRBs, were first detected in 2007 by astronomers scouring archival data from Australia's Parkes Telescope, a 64-meter diameter dish best known for its role receiving live televison images from the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

But the antenna's detection of the first FRB -- and the subsequent confirmed discovery of nearly two dozen more powerful radio pulses across the sky by Parkes and other radio telsescopes -- has sent astrophysicists scurrying to find more of the objects and to explain them.

"It's a new class of astronomical events. We know very little about FRBs in general," explains Justin Vandenbroucke, a University of Wisconsin-Madison physicist who, with his colleagues, is turning IceCube, the world's most sensitive neutrino telescope, to the task of helping demystify the powerful pulses of radio energy generated up to billions of light-years from Earth.

The idea, the Wisconsin physicist says, is to see if high-energy neutrinos are generated coincident with FRBs. If that's the case, it would give scientists leads to what might be generating the powerful radio flares and reveal something about the physics of the environments where they are generated.

To read more, click here.