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### The Microwave is in the Dish!

May6

The Dish is a 2000 Australian film that tells a partly true, and quite funny story of the Parkes Observatory’s role in relaying live television of man’s first steps on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It was the top grossing film in Australia in 2000.

Today, scientists at the radio telescope facility are researching “fast radio bursts” which could be intergalactic signals. PhD student Emily Petroff was one of those investigating when they noticed unusual signals that were not identified as fast radio bursts.

We were getting some strange signals that appeared to be coming from very nearby,” she said. After some closer study they discovered that indeed these weird, alien signals were very close by – and coming from the kitchen’s microwave!

Ms Petroff said the source of the signals had now been identified as coming from the facility’s kitchen. “We were actually able to trace them back to the microwave at the Parkes radio telescope site,” she said.

The strange signals were sent when someone opened the microwave door before the heating process was finished.

It turns out that you can generate these particular local signals by opening the door of the microwave to stop the microwave, and that produces these weird bursts that we’re seeing at Parkes,” Ms Petroff said. (check out how microwaves work here)

It was kind of a surprise to all of us.” Yes, it would seem that The Dish was indeed in the local microwave! Mathematical? Well, not really, but remember that the “dish” shape of this radio telescope is a parabola – radio waves bounce off the curved shape to focus on the receiver (the white box in this picture). Simple parabolas have a “squared” equation,
such as y=x2

The path of a ball kicked into the air typically follows a parabolic shape and the shape of a flashlight’s or car headlight’s reflector is also a parabola, in order to focus the light into a beam. Yes, we are surrounded by Parabolas everywhere. Microwaves are sometimes nearby too!

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