SETI Institute Discovers Intriguing Insights into Fast Radio Bursts with Allen Telescope Array

by Manuel Costa
Fast Radio Bursts

The SETI Institute’s team, using the Allen Telescope Array, has observed 35 bursts from the repeating Fast Radio Burst (FRB) 20220912A. This observation enhances our understanding of Fast Radio Bursts and their potential origins from extreme cosmic sources, as reported by

The institute’s application of the upgraded Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in observing FRB 20220912A has revealed new aspects of these enigmatic space signals. Fast Radio Bursts are short, powerful radio wave emissions from deep space. Among these, certain FRBs, known as “repeaters,” emit signals multiple times, adding complexity to the quest to pinpoint their source. Over a period of 541 hours, the researchers recorded 35 bursts from the repeater FRB 20220912A. These were detected across a broad radio frequency spectrum using the ATA, exhibiting unique energy signatures and patterns, primarily in the lower frequency range.

The research included dynamic spectra analysis and the study of frequency-averaged pulse profiles and time-averaged spectra of the detected bursts. The data visualizations highlighted distinct sub-burst patterns, as acknowledged by the SETI Institute.

Dr. Sofia Sheikh of the SETI Institute, leading the research as an NSF MPS-Ascend Postdoctoral Fellow, expressed excitement over the findings. The research not only confirms known properties of FRBs but also uncovers new ones. The study, she says, is helping narrow down potential sources of FRBs, like magnetars, although no current model fully explains all observed properties. This groundbreaking study with the ATA underscores the importance of advanced telescopes in solving the mysteries surrounding FRBs.

The study’s results, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), highlight several intriguing behaviors of FRBs. These include downward frequency drifting, a relationship between bandwidth and center frequency, and variations in burst duration. A novel observation was the decrease in the center frequency of bursts over a two-month observation period, likened to a cosmic slide-whistle effect.

Analysis of the FRB 20220912A dataset revealed a decrease in both center frequency and bandwidth over approximately 60 days. This finding helps in understanding the overall cosmic signal rate and the specific contribution of FRB 20220912A to it. The study also explored the timing patterns of bursts, yet no definitive repetition pattern was identified, emphasizing the unpredictability of these cosmic events.

The Allen Telescope Array’s role in this research is crucial. Its ability to simultaneously record a vast array of frequency channels, both high and low, allows for comprehensive real-time analysis of FRBs. Ongoing upgrades to the ATA are set to enhance its capabilities further, keeping it at the forefront of FRB research.

Dr. Wael Farah, SETI Institute ATA Project Scientist and co-author of the study, highlights the ATA’s unique capabilities in researching fast transients and its significant role in FRB studies, especially post its upgrade.

This significant discovery by the SETI Institute marks a major advancement in understanding the universe’s extreme objects. As research continues, each new feature discovered in the cosmos brings us closer to unraveling the mysteries of these fascinating cosmic signals.

For further details, refer to the study “Characterization of the Repeating FRB 20220912A with the Allen Telescope Array” by Sofia Z. Sheikh and colleagues, accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Fast Radio Bursts

What is the SETI Institute’s recent discovery about Fast Radio Bursts?

The SETI Institute observed 35 bursts from a repeating Fast Radio Burst (FRB) known as FRB 20220912A using the Allen Telescope Array. This observation sheds light on the mysterious nature of FRBs and their potential origins from extreme cosmic sources.

How did the Allen Telescope Array contribute to the understanding of FRBs?

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), with its upgraded capabilities, was instrumental in observing and analyzing the FRB 20220912A. It recorded the bursts across a wide radio frequency spectrum, helping to reveal unique energy signatures and patterns in the FRBs.

What are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and why are they significant?

Fast Radio Bursts are brief, intense flashes of radio waves originating from deep space. Their significance lies in their mysterious nature and the information they potentially offer about extreme conditions in the universe. Some FRBs, known as “repeaters,” emit signals multiple times, further intriguing astronomers.

What new insights did the SETI Institute’s study reveal about FRBs?

The study revealed several intriguing behaviors of FRBs, including downward frequency drifting, a connection between bandwidth and center frequency, changes in burst duration, and a novel decrease in the center frequency of bursts over time. These findings are crucial in understanding the nature and origin of FRBs.

What are the future prospects for FRB research with the Allen Telescope Array?

The ATA’s unique ability to record numerous frequency channels simultaneously positions it as a critical tool in FRB research. Ongoing upgrades will enhance its capabilities, allowing for the detection of fainter FRBs across more frequencies, thereby advancing our understanding of these cosmic phenomena.

More about Fast Radio Bursts

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SammyJo December 17, 2023 - 8:56 am

did anyone else get lost in the technical stuff? I mean, I get that it’s important, but it’s a lot to take in. Still, kudos to the SETI team for their hard work.

Jessie K December 17, 2023 - 1:32 pm

wow, this is some real sci-fi stuff right here. The way they’re unlocking these space signals is like straight out of a movie. wonder what they’ll find next??

MikeT December 17, 2023 - 10:05 pm

gotta say, it’s impressive how much we can learn from just radio waves. It’s like these bursts are talking to us, but we’re still learning the language, right?

KarenG December 17, 2023 - 10:11 pm

this article’s a bit over my head tbh. but it’s super cool that they’re using the ATA to crack this code. Space is just so vast and mysterious…


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