“Mysterious” radio burst referenced in Google Sky

Any story headlined “Astronomers Find Mysterious Radio Burst” gets clicked on by me faster than you can say “colliding neutron stars”. Space.com reports on the research paper published today in Science Express (ArXiv.org has the whole paper for free). Space.com’s article also has an accompanying image pinpointing the burst’s location in the sky, near the Small Magellanic Cloud in the southern hemisphere:


Because that image exists, and because Google Sky exists, these two had to be mashed up. Voila:


As usual, play with the opacity slider to compare the overlay with the, erm, underlay.

Some caveats: Google Earth/Sky’s image overlay tool still uses polar coordinates only; real-field-of-view images get difficult to position near the poles, especially at larger scales/wider angles. Still, the fit is quite good, especially when considering that the location of the radio burst is somewhat vague.

Just as geographers have begun to append their papers with KML files containing the relevant overlays and data, I hope that astronomers and astrophysicists start doing the same soon. After all, 250 million computer screens can now display such a discovery accurately, and in the wider context of the sky. Surely science outreach doesn’t get any easier than this?