An Introduction

Hello and welcome to The FRBeat!

What is The FRBeat and what is this post? Well, this is the start of a new project for me. My name is Emily Petroff and I’m an astronomer working in the Netherlands. I study a type of astronomical source called ‘Fast Radio Bursts’ or FRBs for short. FRBs are new and mysterious. They are short bright radio pulses that last about a millisecond and that we think are coming from other galaxies all over the Universe. If they’re coming from as far away as we think they are (billions of lightyears away) then they release more energy in that one millisecond than almost any other process in the Universe! But the explanation for these pulses is still a blank. We think they might be coming from compact dense objects like black holes or neutron stars — either when they collide and explode, or when they’re very young and energetic. My job is to figure it out!

So why am I writing about it here? Partly because I think FRBs are extremely interesting, and I think you will too. But also because we’re on the tip of a big change in this field and I think we’re going to learn more about FRBs each year in the next few years than we’ve learned in the past decade of studying them combined. New telescopes are coming online around the world to look for more FRBs over more sky more of the time, and we expect that we’ll go from finding 5 a year to 5 a month, and maybe even 5 a day! Maybe we’ll solve it in the next few years, and maybe we won’t, but either way it’s going to be such an exciting and fascinating time. And I want to share it with you.

Which brings me to the purpose of this website. This blog is going to be my project for the next few years: a running documentary about fast radio bursts. I’m going to write regular posts here about new FRB papers and discoveries as they come out, and I’ll also be doing a series of short videos taking you on tours of some of the world’s biggest telescopes searching for FRBs, talking to some of the experts of the field, and showing you the behind-the-scenes of how science is done. (Full disclosure, I’ve never made a video webseries before, so please be patient with me as I figure out the ropes…)

I have lots of ideas of what to include in this series, but I’m also keen to hear from you. If you have a particular topic you’re interested in or an aspect of astronomy research you’d like to know more about, please let me know! You can reach out via Twitter as always, but I’ve also included a response form at the bottom of the page, and you can comment on each post for specific questions.

I’m excited to start this project and tell you more about the wonderful world of FRBs and other exciting astronomical explosions. Next week I’ll have my first post about the new results from the ASKAP Telescope in Australia, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

A photo of me in my natural habitat: playing with big telescopes. This was at the 500 Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.

A photo of me in my natural habitat: playing with big telescopes. This was at the 500 Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.