One of the world's great radio telescopes isn't hearing voices – for the first time another giant dish has picked up one of the mysterious "fast radio bursts" (FRBs) that have been puzzling astronomers at the Parkes Radio Telescope. The find confirms these bursts indeed come from outer space, but beyond that their source is still wide open.
Last year the astronomers reported four bursts picked up by the celebrated Australian telescope. As each FRB lasted around a millisecond there was no time to have other telescopes check the same location, and the fact that no other telescope had picked up anything similar raised the possibility that something local was interfering with the Parkes telescope.
Now, however The Astrophysical Journal reports that the 305m Arecibo Telescope has picked up a similar burst while searching for pulsars. The burst occurred in 2012, but not noticed at the time. "FRB 121102's brightness, duration, and the inferred event rate are all consistent with the properties of the previously detected Parkes bursts," the authors report.
Emerging out of the Western Australian outback MWA is a remarkable telescope for radio astronomy where more than 2000 antennas are spread across 3 square kilometers, in 128 groups of dual-polarisation dipole antennas. — John Goldsmith