Sunday, September 30, 2007

Radio Burst

Today's information age allows some astronomy to be done from a desktop. Projects like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey produce enormous databases. Sometimes, as was the case with WMAP, the data is jealously guarded so that the gatherers can impose their own interpretation. Ideally, all researchers are free to dig at their convenience. Sometimes mining old data can lead to a new discovery.

By searching archived data from 2001, radio astronomers have uncovered a powerful new type of radio burst. The original survey examined the Small Magellanic Cloud for repeating bursts of pulsars. The 2001 survey missed this burst, which lasted only 5 milliseconds. Because of its offset location, the burst is interpreted to come form far away, 3 billion light years. the discovery was reported in the September 27 issue of Science Express.

Source of this burst is still a mystery. Many scientists have theorised that intergalactic Space is full of unseen objects like Black Holes. Normally invisible, Black Holes would occasionally evaporate in brief bursts of radiation. The death of a Black Hole would look very much like this.

This week Carnival of Space looks at the art of Space.



Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Hi Louise. Perhaps the reason it's not coming directly from the direction that the SMC is in is that we see the SMC using light, but the radio waves were generated by something that moved at other than light speed.

To get an idea what that speed is, you have to look at the proper motion of the SMC. You probably understand astronomy conventions better than I do, but my understanding of this paper is that the SMC is moving to the south east.

So right now, the SMC is actually to the south east of where it appears to be according to the light we receive from it. But the radio emission is clearly more or less from the south of the SMC, and is clearly southeast or southwest from various parts of the SMC.

If the burst was associated with the SMC in a straight line emission, then the radio burst could have come from the visible part of the SMC that is northwest of the place the radio burst came from, but with the burst mediated by tachyons that travelled faster than light so that it leads the light influence.

I don't think that this is very convincing, but if enough little things add up, then this could be a small part of the evidence.

So long as we assume that light speed is absolute and unvarying, then we cannot examine the possibility that anything can exceed light speed. And if light does vary in speed, then this raises the question of what speeds are truly possible.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a lot of discussion at ADASS last week on data preservation, luckily this is not just an astronomy problem so we might actually get solutions that work.

That new data can be extracted from old really adds weight to the need to preserve and exchange data.

12:50 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Nice to hear from you both. The burst may be symptomatic of something else, even a changing speed of light. Perhaps you will find something in archived data that suppoorts your work.

Sam, I still miss the Big Island dearly. I hope that archived data remains free.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louise, we all hope it remains free, there was plenty of discussion on exchange of data, but there was also some talk on intellectual property.

Part of long term preservation requires that data is stored in multiple locations often with differing agencies, this protects against, among other things, funding cuts or changes in political attitude. There is certainly some leverage there for keeping the information free.

As for the Big Island, I have been away for the past three weeks and am certainly glad to be back. I seem to remember you will be visiting Hilo next month. hope you get some time to soak up the aloha.

2:01 PM  
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