Occasionally a story comes along that’s not strictly tech-related, but should be of interest to anyone remotely interested in space tech, exploration, and mysteries in general.
Apparently in the 1990’s, several times a year astronomers using the telescope at the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia would pick up mysterious radio signals known as perytons, described in a recent report as “millisecond-duration transients of terrestrial origin”.
Mysterious perytons baffled space boffins for years
The researchers involved though the perytons were coming from atmospheric activity such as lightning strikes and believed this for 17 years, until this year, when they installed a new receiver to monitor interference, The Guardian reports.
But the actual source of the perytons was found in fact to be a microwave oven.
The receiver apparently detected signals at 2.4 GHz within 5 kilometers of the telescope, which the researchers discovered were created by staff members heating up their lunches in the observatory kitchen. But the interference only happened when they opened the microwave door while it was still heating.
“If you set it to heat and pull it open to have a look, it generates interference,” Simon Johnston, head of astrophysics at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told The Guardian. The telescope also had to be pointed toward the microwave to pick up the signals.
When the telescope (known as The Dish) was constructed in 1961, Parkes was a fairly quiet town and the observatory was isolated. But now digital interference has become much worse over time. To escape that digital noise, the astronomers looked for a more isolated spot to build a new telescope, the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP).
Johnston said they found the “quietest site on earth to do astronomy” in Western Australia, a place that has no Wi-Fi, no radio signals, and no mobile phone coverage. That telescope is due to be completed in 2016.
SOURCE: The Guardian