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New Method to Map the Cosmos in 3D

First Posted: Sep 21, 2015 09:08 PM EDT
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There may be a new way to map the cosmos in 3D. Scientists have proposed a new way to calculate the distances of the cosmos using mysterious bursts of energy.

In this latest study, the researchers relied on bursts of energy known as fast radio bursts. By studying these bursts, the researchers managed to position distant galaxies in three dimensions and map out the cosmos.

"We've introduced the idea of using these new phenomena to study cosmological objects in the universe," said Kiyoshi Masui, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We believe we'll be able to use these flashes to put together a picture of how galaxies are spread through space."

Some unknown astrophysical phenomenon causes these bursts of energy that appear as short flashes of radio waves. While only 10 fast radio bursts have ever been recorded, scientists believe that there could be thousands of them each day.

As these fast radio bursts travel toward Earth, they spread out and arrive at different times based on their wavelengths. The researchers propose using the delay between the arrival times of different frequencies to map the cosmos. The amount of spread in the signal that arrives on Earth gives scientists a sense of how many electrons, and by extension how much material including stars, gas and dark matter, are in between Earth and the source of the burst.

In fact, the researchers state that Canada's CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) radio telescope could offer the first set of regular data from fast radio bursts.

"CHIME has the potential of seeing tens to hundreds of these events per day so we can build a catalogue of events," said Kris Sigurdson, one of the researchers, in a news release. "If they are cosmological, we can use this information to build catalogue of galaxies."

The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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