Mysterious signals thought to have come from deep space and possibly aliens, in fact, originated from somewhere much less spectacular – a microwave oven at the Parkes Observatory’s staff kitchen in Australia, researchers announced.
The scientists had been at two minds whether the enigmatic signals, known as perytons, came from somewhere far away in the universe or much nearer, even perhaps somewhere on Earth.
Perytons are ultra-short (a few milliseconds) radio bursts of terrestrial origins, whose frequency-swept emissions mimic those detected from outer space.
The microwave in the staff kitchen was sending the signal when somebody opened its door too early.
The scientific team from Australia’s Parkes Observatory said in a paper uploaded to arXiv (citation below):
“Until now, the physical origin of the dispersion-mimicking perytons had remained a mystery. We have identified strong out-of-band emission at 2.3–2.5 GHz associated with several peryton events.”
“Subsequent tests revealed that a peryton can be generated at 1.4 GHz when a microwave oven door is opened prematurely and the telescope is at an appropriate relative angle.”
“Radio emission escaping from microwave ovens during the magnetron shut-down phase neatly explain all of the observed properties of the peryton signals.”
The culprit was a microwave next door in the staff kitchen, as well as one in the observatory’s visitors centre.
But what about the fast radio bursts?
While the scientists have solved the perytons mystery, they are still at a loss to explain what is causing the FRBs (fast radio bursts).
In January 2015, an FRB was observed tearing through space. FRBs have been observed since 2007, when astronomers searching through Parkes telescope data on an unrelated project came across it.
The Parkes Telescope has picked up six more FRBs since 2007, while the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico captured a seventh.
These radio bursts are definitely not caused by kitchen appliances, the scientists informed.
Citation: “Identifying the source of perytons at the Parkes radio telescope,” E. Petroff, E. F. Keane, E. D. Barr, J. E. Reynolds, J. Sarkissian, P. G. Edwards, J. Stevens, C. Brem, A. Jameson, S. Burke-Spolaor, S. Johnston, N. D. R. Bhat, P. Chandra, S. Kudale, S. Bhandari. Xiv:1504.02165v1 [astro-ph.IM]. Submitted on 9 Apr 2015.
Video – January’s radio burst was not a microwave