Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What is Radio Astronomy?

Astronomy is one of the most amazing things discovered by scientists. Invented long time back, astronomy is a very interesting wing of scientific studies that deals with the atmosphere in outer space, movement of planets, galaxies and stars in the solar system and giving prediction on the good or ill effect of those movements. People in medieval age used to observe the night sky with naked eyes. Slowly the invention of telescope took place astronomical observations became easier. People slowly learned about the cosmos and solar system and came to know about the planets and other celestial objects.

By looking through the lens of telescope people got an idea about the shape and look of planets. But after a long long time, scientists observed that the celestial objects in outer space emit radio waves and thus they started working on it and thus radio astronomy became an important wing of astronomical observations.

The main aim of radio astronomy is to catch the wave length of radio waves emitted by celestial objects and studying them to acquire data about the atmosphere in outer space. By using different techniques that are similar to optical astronomy, scientists discovered that not only radio waves but most of the celestial objects in outer space emit optical waves also. The telescopes used for radio astronomy are larger in size than that used in observational astronomy for observing longer wave lengths.

It was in the year 1860, that some equations by James Clerk Maxwell showed that there was a high possibility of existence of electromagnetic radiations from stellar sources with any wavelength. Some of the most renowned scientists of that time such as Oliver Lodge, Max Planck and Thomas Edison worked on radio astronomy for some time and agreed on one point that is was the sun that was emiting electromagnetic or radio waves. The first astronomical radio source was identified in the early 1930s, when an engineer named Guthe Jansky was working in Bell Telephone Laboratories. Jansky used a large directional antenna and observed that his analog pen-and-paper recording system was continuously recording some unknown signal.

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