Australia is using pop radio to track space junk

Space junk is a serious problem: it threatens satellites and spacecraft, and can plummet unpredictably to earth. Australia’s Murchison Widefield Array is a high-sensitivity radio telescope that tracks space debris as small as 1 meter across, by observing how the objects reflect FM signals from Australian radio stations. It’s listening to pop music from space.

Australian broadcaster Triple J plays a mix of pop and alternative tunes that are being recruited to serve science — by helping track space junk orbiting above us. The station is among FM broadcasters whose signals are bouncing off decaying satellites and other debris and into the giant “ear” that is the Murchison Widefield Array in Western Australia.

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