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Triple FRB detection weekend at Apertif

Submitter: ALERT Team
Description: With the first two Apertif papers now out (Oostrum et al. 2020 and Connor et al. 2020), we have been further improving our real-time system for finding Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). We were recently able to increase our sensitivity to FRBs at higher "dispersion measures" -- this means we can see dimmer bursts from farther away. We do this by even smarter usage of the 160 Graphics Processor Units (GPUs) in ARTS, the Apertif Radio Transient System. And because the Universe is three-dimensional, looking 10% farther in one dimension gives you 30% more discoveries. The exploration volume grows by that much.

During observing weeks for the FRB survey (ALERT), the slack channel is very lively. The astronomers, both those on duty and the rest of the team, are poised to immediately analyze any new FRBs that our system detects in real time. Last weekend was a blast. On Saturday night we found an FRB with a very high dispersion measure (#1 in the image). Yet another one on Sunday evening (#2), and when we were all trying to take a breath from the data analysis, and from follow-up observing and calibration way after midnight, we discovered a third one on Monday morning (#3). Three FRBs in three days is a new record!

All three are from significantly farther away than those we detected when the survey started; these new FRBs went off 5-7 billion (!) years ago. They were emitted before the Earth and Sun even existed, and traveled all this time, but still last only about 1 millisecond; then hit Westerbork on the weekend. FRB Party.
Copyright: JvL
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