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Shaw Prize for Astronomy awarded to astronomers for the discovery of fast radio bursts

This year's Shaw Prize for Astronomy has been jointly awarded to Matthew Bailes, Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin for their discovery of fast radio bursts – intense, momentary flashes that release as much energy in just a few milliseconds as our Sun in 80 years.

Discovery of the first fast radio burst by the team was made when they were re-processing archival data collected by our Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang using an innovative algorithm designed to search for burst events. Their results were published in 2007 and this first detection became known as the 'Lorimer Burst'.

Despite initial scepticism about whether this unique event was a real astronomical source, the work by Bailes, Lorimer and McLaughlin inspired others to search for these elusive events.

Since then, astronomers using existing and newly designed instruments including our new ASKAP radio telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Yamaji Country in Western Australia have helped to further research into fast radio bursts.

What causes the bursts remains a mystery, although recent research indicates they may be related to magnetars, dense stellar remnants with magnetic fields a thousand trillion times stronger than Earth's magnetic field.

Matthew Bailes, Director of OzGrav – the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery – and Professor of Astrophysics at Swinburne University of Technology, is a valued member of Australia's radio astronomy community who has a long-term association with the ATNF. Matthew is a past member of the ATNF Steering Committee and has been a key partner in the development of new instrumentation for our Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang, over the past 20 years.

Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin, both Professors of Astronomy at West Virginia University, are regular users of the instruments that make up the ATNF and active collaborators on research projects with our ATNF team.

Dr Douglas Bock is Director for the ATNF. He said "Congratulations Matthew, Duncan and Maura on receiving this prestigious award, and for kick-starting this exciting new area of astrophysics. I'm proud that our Parkes radio telescope, Murriyang, played an important role in discovering the bursts – one of the highlights in the instrument's contribution to better understanding the Universe."

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Added by James Chesters on 2023-11-15

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