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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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  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,