radio astronomy


General Science

  • noun a branch of astronomy that deals with the detection and analysis of radio waves emitted from objects in space


  • Powerful branch of astronomy, now over 60 years old, in which astronomers use radio waves to examine the same objects as optical astronomers, and new ones which are visible only or mainly at radio frequencies. Radio astronomy feeds from (and contributes to) the rapid technical change in telecommunications and information technology. Interferometric methods allow radio telescopes of immense size to be simulated, and moving radio telescopes into space allows radio emissions to be detected outside the frequencies which can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere. Radio astronomy has already increased our knowledge of the universe in a fundamental ways, ranging from the discovery of pulsars and the cosmic background radiation to the observation of lightning in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Radio waves can penetrate interstellar gas clouds which are opaque to light, allowing us to observe the centre of the galaxy directly, and permit the universe to be viewed at different temperatures and energies from those seen with optical telescopes. The birth of radio astronomy, whose founder was Jansky, was the start of the process of recent decades by which astronomy has expanded to observe the universe across virtually the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum.


  • The study of celestial bodies by detecting and observing RF energy which is emitted and/or reflected by them. Also spelled radioastronomy.