What is Radio Astronomy?

Until the development of radio astronomy in the 1940's, our view of the Universe was confined to the narrow visible-light window. However, there is more to the Universe than meets the eye. In addition to the light emitted by stars, galaxies, quasars and other celestial objects, there is invisible energy - infrared and ultraviolet light, x-rays and radio - that our eyes cannot detect. Special telescopes are needed to "see" this invisible radiation. Unfortunately, other than optical light, only radio waves are easily seen from the Earth's surface.

To detect radio waves, scientists use use large parabolic "dishes", similar to the much smaller scale dishes commonly used in many households to pick up satellite television. Currently, the largest parabolic radio dishes in the world are the 305m diameter Arecibo Radio Telescope, in Puerto Rico, and the 100m diameter Effelsburg Radio Antenna, in Bonn, Germany.

In Canada, radio observatories include the Algonquin Radio Observatory, which is equipped with a 46m diameter radio telescope , and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, located near Penticton, British Columbia.

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Comments and inquiries to:
Russ Taylor: (russ@ras.ucalgary.ca)
Bill Scott: (bill at ras.ucalgary.ca)