Astronomy Today

Radio Telescopes

How does a radio telescope work?

A radio telescope works very much like the antenna on your car radio. Any long piece of metal can “pick up” radio waves moving past it, and any sheet or scaffolding made of metal can reflect radio waves. Radio telescopes are giant antennae that are specially constructed to reflect radio waves and focus them to a single point. At that point, those waves can be detected, amplified, and interpreted into images or spectra, just 246 like visible light. Since radio waves are millions or even billions of times longer than visible light waves, radio telescopes are generally very large, or consist of large arrays of telescopes that use interferometry to create more detailed images.


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