Searching for giga-Jansky fast radio bursts from the Milky Way with a global array of low-cost radio receivers

Dan Maoz, Abraham Loeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


If fast radio bursts (FRBs) originate from galaxies at cosmological distances, then their all-sky rate implies that the Milky Way may host an FRB every 30–1500 yr, on average. If many FRBs persistently repeat for decades or more, a local giant FRB could be active now, with 1 GHz radio pulses of flux ∼3 × 10 10 Jy, comparable with the fluxes and frequencies detectable by cellular communication devices (cell phones, Wi-Fi and GPS). We propose searching for Galactic FRBs using a global array of low-cost radio receivers. One possibility is the ∼1 GHz communication channel in cellular phones, through a Citizens-Science down-loadable application. Participating phones would continuously listen for and record candidate FRBs and would periodically upload information to a central data-processing website which will identify the signature of a real, globe-encompassing, FRB from an astronomical distance. Triangulation of the GPS-based pulse arrival times reported from different Earth locations will provide the FRB sky position, potentially to arcsecond accuracy. Pulse arrival times versus frequency, from reports from phones operating at diverse frequencies, or from fast signal de-dispersion by the application, will yield the dispersion measure (DM). Compared to a Galactic DM model, it will indicate the source distance within the Galaxy. A variant approach uses the built-in ∼100 MHz FM-radio receivers present in cell phones for an FRB search at lower frequencies. Alternatively, numerous ‘software-defined radio’ devices, costing ∼$10 US each, could be deployed and plugged into USB ports of personal computers (particularly in radio-quiet locations) to establish the global network of receivers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3920-3923
Number of pages4
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Methods: observational
  • Radio continuum: transients


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