Fast radio bursts are short, sharp pulses of radio waves lasting a few milliseconds that are very difficult to detect.
Dr Bannister and his team identified that the bursts come from distant galaxies and can be used to answer some of astronomy’s biggest questions.
Dr Bannister’s pioneering research uses the ASKAP radio telescope in Murchison, WA, which is owned and operated by CSIRO.
In 2017, Dr Bannister modified the way the telescope can be used to find more radio bursts more efficiently than ever before, then designed an innovative system for ASKAP that could narrow down the origin point of each incoming burst.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall congratulated Dr Bannister, as well as all the winners of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
“At CSIRO, our people are our greatest asset, so this is a well-deserved honour for Keith and his team, whose work has had a transformative impact on the world’s understanding of our place in the Universe,” Dr Marshall said.
“CSIRO is proud to create and manage world-class national infrastructure like ASKAP that supports the entire academic system to perform world-class research, underpinned by strong collaborative partnerships to make life better for all Australians.”
CSIRO’s Director of Space and Astronomy Dr Douglas Bock praised Dr Bannister’s talents as an engineer and astronomer.
“Keith’s combination of skills and experience enabled him to bring an innovative approach to a challenge and deliver a unique solution for astronomy," Dr Bock said.
"It is this type of innovation that is at the heart of the Australia Telescope National Facility, which CSIRO manages for the Australian research community. My warmest congratulations to Keith on this well-deserved award.”
Telescopes all over the world are now being turned to seek more fast radio bursts and the information they contain.
Dr Bannister said winning the prize was a great honour, and thanked his research partners and collaborators.
“The more fast radio bursts we find, the more we can find out about our Universe,” Dr Bannister said.
“I do what I do because I love it. I’m so passionate about what I do, and I hope that this recognition in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science inspires others to support and pursue science.”
Read the announcement of all the winners of this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/covid-19-vaccine-pioneer-awarded-prime-ministers-prize-science
CSIRO acknowledges the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site where ASKAP is located.