Star Pavilion Saturday 2023

Fast Radio Bursts: an extragalactic mystery

Although the night sky seems eternal and unchanging to our human eyes, it also comprises “transient” astrophysical signals that suddenly appear and vanish; they are the result of some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. Among the most newly discovered transients are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), luminous radio flashes that last barely a few milliseconds, coming from galaxies thousands of millions of lightyears away. The origin of such bright radio flashes is still a mystery, but theories often involve “compact objects”; the corpses that remain when massive stars explode. These could be neutron stars–the strongest magnets in the Universe–or black holes. But with new radio telescopes, we keep making surprising discoveries at breakneck speed. While in 2013 we knew of less than 20 FRBs, now hundreds, even thousands of FRBs haveb een found. Among those, most have only been seen once, while others repeat very frequently. And importantly, we have started to pinpoint the distant galaxies where these FRBs were produced. At such pace, we might soon be able to unveil the nature of such extreme, fascinating sources.

Inés is a Spanish researcher born in the town of Segovia. She got her bachelor’s and master’s degree in astrophysics in Toulouse, France. She moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she obtained her PhD in astrophysics in November 2022, titled “Exploring the link between Neutron Stars and FastRadio Bursts”. In her research, she used data from two Dutch radio telescopes to look for Fast Radio Bursts(FRBs) and try to understand their origin. She is now a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester,where she keeps looking for FRBs using data from the radio telescope MeerKAT, in South Africa.

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