Between 27th March and 1st April 1945, a large increase in ‘radio noise’ was noted by operators of a 200 MHz Royal New Zealand Air Force radar unit located at Mount Bates on Norfolk Island. Flight Officer Hepburn is credited with the first discovery. This increase only occurred within half an hour of the rising or setting of the Sun. Unknown at the time, this interference coincided with sunspot activity which was a well-known phenomenon.
On 27th March 1945, Flight Officer Hepburn of the Royal New Zealand Air Force who was in charge of the radar station on Mount Bates (placed to warn of aircraft in the area) noticed increased radiation recordings at sunrise and sunset. But all this was possible due to an earlier discovery by a pioneering scientist back in the 1920’s …
In 1928 a young physicist named Karl Jansky was hired by Bell Labs to work on a new technology called ‘radio telephony’. In those days radio telephone service was on the cutting edge, and there were many unsolved problems. A phenomenon called ‘magnetic storms’ could disrupt service for days. Jansky, who had very little experience in radio engineering was given the task of studying trans-Atlantic radio interference. In 1930 he began work on an antenna and by 1931 he was making regular observations of radio static at a frequency of 20.5 MHz. He was only an amateur astronomer but he understood that the interference came from a fixed point in the sky – it moved with the stars, hence its source was from space. Consequently, radio astronomy was born in 1931.
Dr Elizabeth Alexander, a government scientist with the New Zealand Radio Development Board, was assigned to investigate this phenomenon, which was dubbed the "Norfolk Island Effect". Subsequent study at various locations demonstrated to Alexander that "... the Norfolk Island Effect was significant and was connected with radiation from the Sun ...".
Credit for Images at Top of Page