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New Fast Radio Burst Tools

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are one of the unresolved mysteries in the Universe. That’s why, when a new FRB is found, it is important to quickly point various telescopes at the object to study it in more depth. Emily Petroff from ASTRON led a team of astronomers to develop a new standardised tool to report on a new FRB finding, which allows the community to rapidly follow-up.

Published by the editorial team, 26 October 2017

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are extremely bright flashes of radio light that travel billions of light years to reach Earth. They were discovered a decade ago, but their nature continues to be largely unknown. Until now only 25 FRBs have been reported, but it is expected that the new high-speed, wide-field radio camera for the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (Apertif), and other telescopes around the world, will find thousands more FRBs.


As soon as a FRB is found, it is crucial to send a message to the astronomy community to allow other instruments to take a look at the object as well. To send out a message for a new FRB finding, Emily Petroff and her team have developed a new tool for the astronomy community to use, called an FRB VOEvent. “By sending your detection as an FRB VOEvent, people listening for new FRBs can respond immediately,” she explains. The tool is understandable for humans and machines. The details of the tool are described in Petroff’s recent publication on Arxiv.

FRB Catalogue

Another tool that Petroff has developed, in collaboration with the Netherlands eScience Center, is the FRB Catalogue. This website contains up to date information on all the FRBs and is hosted by ASTRON. The catalogue has been renewed to make it look better, but most exciting is that the catalogue can now add new events directly when a FRB VOEvent has been sent out. “My hope is that these tools will be useful for the entire community and help us work together better, smarter, and faster,” concludes Petroff.

Text: Iris Nijman



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