For the past 17 years, astronomers at the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia were baffled by mysterious radio signals that would appear once or twice a year. The signals were known as Perytons (PDF), which are described as “millisecond-duration transients of terrestrial origin.” Scientists believed that lightning strikes and other atmospheric activity was the culprit.
Turns out it was the friggin’ lunch room microwave.
A recently upgraded receiver detected strong signals at 2.4 GHz within five kilometers of the telescope. They conculded that the interference only occurred when staffers opened the microwave door while their food was still heating.
In order to combat the ever increasing levels of digital noise, a new telescope named the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is currently being built in a much more remote area. It will be completely free of radio signals, Wi-Fi and cellphone coverage. I guess staff will have to do with PB&Js from now on.
(The Guardian via The Verge / Image by Sean Fallon – That’s Nerdalicious)