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11th of January 2018
An extreme magneto-ionic environment associated with the fast radio burst source FRB 121102
An international team of astronomers has used two of the world's largest radio telescopes (Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia) to show that the mysterious source of the only known repeating Fast Radio Burst—FRB 121102—is in an astonishingly extreme and dynamic magneto-ionic environment. The observations of FRB 121102 at 4-8 GHz show that the emission is almost 100 per cent linearly polarized, allowing the team to measure a very large and variable Faraday rotation measure. This discovery suggests that the source is in the close vicinity of a massive black hole, or within a nebula of unprecedented power, within its host dwarf galaxy at redshift 0.193. The results appear in this week's edition of Nature.

With a number of wide-field and wide-band radio observatories now coming online, including ASKAP and the Ultra-Wideband Low receiver being installed at Parkes, an increasing number of FRBs are expected to be discovered in the coming year, and astronomers are poised to answer more fundamental questions about their nature and origin.

Reference: Michilli et al. Nature, in press, The team included CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science members George Heald and Charlotte Sobey (joint appointment with ICRAR).

Image description: The 305-metre Arecibo telescope, in Puerto Rico, and its suspended support platform of radio receivers is shown amid a starry night. A flash from the Fast Radio Burst source FRB 121102 is seen: originating beyond the Milky Way, from deep in extragalactic space. Image credits: Image design - Danielle Futselaar; Photo usage - Brian P. Irwin / Dennis van de Water / Shutterstock.com

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