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4th of February 2022
RFI at the MRO!
The Australian and Western Australian Governments established a radio quiet zone to protect the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, which is the location of ASKAP and the MWA, and will host the SKA-Low telescope. The Observatory routinely monitors the radio-frequency environment to ensure there are no sources of interference. This monitoring revealed a short lived burst of Radio Frequency Interference around 2pm local time (06 UTC) on January 20th. The burst lasted about 10 minutes, and was strongest around 100 MHz, but extended above 1 GHz. Concerns that this may have been caused by activity on-site were alleviated when it was realised this was associated with a solar flare, detected by satellites monitoring ths sun. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) was not operating at the time, but ASKAP was observing the RACS (Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey), and the flare did have a noticeable (and deleterious) effect on the observations. While the field being observed was about 15 degrees from the sun, radio telescopes are sensitive to strong emission in the side-lobes of the receiving pattern which can be well outside the main beam. And, as the image above shows, the solar flare was strong enough that it was able to be imaged and correctly localised to the edge of the Sun's disk. (Image credit: Emil Lenc)

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