Radio Astronomy

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Radio astronomy is yet another cool use of the microwave frequency spectrum!

History of radio astronomy

During W.W.II, at the Rad Lab, Robert H Dicke invented the Dicke radiometer, which later proved to have broad application in radio astronomy. Dicke appears in in our Microwave Hall of Fame!

In 1952 radio astronomy was born, thanks to the efforts of two Harvard researchers, Harold Irving Ewen and Edward Mills Purcell. Check out their entry in the Microwave Hall of Fame!

This came from The Unknown Engineer who raises and excellent point:

IMHO, Grote Reber predates them. According to NRAO's URL, Grote Reber was already making radio astronomy observation in 1938 to 1943. The IEEE also regards Reber as the Papa of radio astronomy.

Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson discovered the microwave background radiation that confirmed the Big Bang theory in 1964. Not only this this win the a Nobel Prize for Physics, but it also landed them in the Microwave Hall of Fame!

Here's some other radio-astronomy-related content on Microwaves101:

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Some radio astronomy links

Some of this information about radio telescopes comes from an engineer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Thanks!

Here is a link to a spectacular collapse of the Greenbank 300 ft telescope (antenna), 1988:

This engineering disaster certainly ranks up there with the Tacoma bridge!

Here is a link to radio astronomy references with many links to other radio astronomy websites:

Every specialty has its own "bible". In radio astronomy it's "Interferometry and Synthesis in Radio Astronomy by A. Richard Thompson, James M. Moran, and George W. Swenson.

The website for the NRAO is and for the new international Atacama (a desert in Chile) Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is ALMA will work up to 950 GHz!

Currently the hot topics in radio astronomy are: "Stellar Nurseries" and "The Epoch of Re-ionization" (occurred "shortly" after the big bang). Please don't bother sending complaints to this web site if you are a "creationist", here's the response you'll get: just because you believe it, doesn't make it so.

Another interesting thing. All the planets in the solar system are in the near-field of the Very Large Array (VLA).

We need to dispel one myth about radio astronomy. This worthy topic has really nothing to do with SETI. Mentioning this organization prominently on the same page as radio astronomy will probably annoy the astronomers so much that they'll never return. Occasionally, those-that-shall-not-be-named have scheduled time to use radio astronomy equipment or sites, like Arecibo. But for the most part the confusion between radio astronomy and those-that-shall-not-be-named annoys the heck out of radio astronomers. It's comparable the assumption that microwave engineers would like to repair their neighbor's broken ovens, a misconception we battle all the time.

More to come!




Author : Unknown Editor