Radio Telescopes: Listening to the Past

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2020-06-28 19:21:52

The basic actions of observation and introspection have been crucial to our growth as a species. Our ancestors gazed with great curiosity upon the star-studded night sky. Like moths to a flame, we were drawn to the expansive wonder that was the cosmos. Reminiscent of an unexplored ocean, it lay open for all to traverse and see, and yet, we didn’t see everything at once.

The act of seeing is enabled by the eye. Our eyes help us identify, interact, and obtain information about the world around us. In an elaborate cycle of signal collection, transduction, and processing our eyes convert the light from the environment into an image that is transmitted to our brain through intricate neural pathways. Nevertheless, there are fundamental limits to our sense of vision.

What we see around us may seem so self-evident as though it is just there. This makes it weird to think that what we perceive boils down to light bouncing off objects and onto our eyeballs. Light, in fact, can be characterized as a broad spectrum of waves known as the electromagnetic spectrum. In our case, much like a painter who is limited to a select palette of colors, our eyes are sensitive to a narrow portion of the spectrum known as the visible regime.

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