Welcome to the Gettysburg College Radio Telescope!

Most of what we know about the universe comes from information that is carried to us by light, i.e. electromagnetic waves,
often called electromagnetic radiation because it has electric and magnetic properties. Visible light, coming to our eyes as colors ranging from deep red to deep violet, is only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum.  In recent years. the remaining, “non-visual” ranges  -  radio waves,  microwaves, infrared and ultraviolet rays, x-rays and gamma rays  -  have been harnessed by scientists in increasingly sophisticated ways to further explore the world around us and “what’s out there.”

While radio waves are low in frequency, they have the longest wavelength of any of the forms of light, so they aren’t scattered by the earth’s atmosphere before they can be picked up by radio telescopes.  In contrast to "ordinary" telescopes that produce visible light images, these telescopes detect radio waves emitted by objects in space and translate those waves into information that, along with optical telescopes, further our understanding of the universe. 

All objects emit radio waves, some stronger than others. A radio telescope "tunes in" to these signals and listens just as does the AM radio in your car - but instead of hearing music, you hear a hiss that, translated by computer, reveals the size, shape, location, distance and intensity of the source.

Our 3.1 meter Small Radio Telescope (SRT) stands just outside the Gettysburg College Observatory.  Looking much like a satellite dish, it gathers radio emissions and feeds them to a computer inside the Observatory for analysis.

Mike Hayden, Director of infrastructure and Operations at Gettysburg College and Program Manager for our 21-cm radio telescope, instigated the not-easy and rather time-consuming project of purchasing it, putting it together, and running it, with the help of volunteers Dick Cooper, '65, Manager for the Physics Department's Project CLEA, Physics electronics technician Gary Hummer, physics major Justin Pryzby,'04, Gettysburg High School student Daniel Rice, and amateur astronomer George Yurick.

Cloudy days mean nothing to a radio telescope, and there are many interesting things, from the simple to the complex, that faculty, students, and attendees of Project CLEA's summer workshops can learn with it. Combining technologies of microwave engineering and digital computing, it involves us in astronomy, physics, digital signal processing, software development, and analysis. 

As Mike states, "It didn't take long for the radio telescope to get integrated into the curriculum. By the time the spring [2003] semester is over, 9 or 10 students will have had hands-on experiments and projects concerning the RT as part of Physics 325 Advanced Physics Lab. In groups of two, students are conducting two-week-long sessions involving the radio telescope: learning about radio astronomy in general, learning how to control ours, writing command line scripts to conduct their observations and then analyzing the data they have collected." 

We're on our way!

Back to Observatory, Physics Department...or on to pictures and data