These two giant radio galaxies were recently found with the MeerKAT telescope. In the background is the sky as seen in optical light. Overlaid in red is the radio light from the enormous radio galaxies, as seen by MeerKAT. Picture: Dr Ian Heywood Oxford/Rhodes/SARAO
These two giant radio galaxies were recently found with the MeerKAT telescope. In the background is the sky as seen in optical light. Overlaid in red is the radio light from the enormous radio galaxies, as seen by MeerKAT. Picture: Dr Ian Heywood Oxford/Rhodes/SARAO

Researchers investigating a star that could disrupt SA mobile phone reception

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jan 26, 2021

Share this article:

Cape Town - Researchers are investigating a star in space that could be disrupting mobile phone reception across South Africa.

A research team has been predicting the bursting behaviours of gamma rays and research published in Nature Astronomy in January 2021.

Research team leader and the University of Johannesburg Centre for Astro-Particle Physics (CAPP) director Soebur Razzaque said: “Our sun is a very ordinary star. When it dies, it will get bigger and become a red giant star. After that it will collapse into a small compact star called a white dwarf. When these massive stars die, they explode into a supernova.”

He said what’s left after this is a very small compact star, small enough to fit in a city about 20km across. This star is called a neutron star, so dense that just a spoonful of it would weigh tons on earth.

“It’s these massive stars and what’s left of them that cause the biggest explosions in the universe,” he said.

The latest burst erupted from a rare, powerful neutron star called a magnetar. For the first time, a second explosion of such a magnetar burst was detected and that data matched a model developed by the research team.

He said: “The extreme explosions from these bursts can disrupt mobile phone reception but can also be messengers from the very early history of the universe, which the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa can help decipher.”

If the next giant flare gamma ray burst happens closer to the home galaxy, being the Milky Way, a powerful radio telescope on the ground such as MeerKAT, may be able to detect it.

Razzaque said: “The better we understand these fleeting explosions, the better we may understand the universe we live in. A star dying soon after the beginning of the universe could be disrupting cell phone reception today. This means that gamma-ray bursts can tell us more about how the universe expands and evolves over time.”

Cape Argus

Share this article: