The first 3D views of radio emission around Jupiter, made by CSIRO.
Radio astronomy: seeing the invisible universe
Radio astronomy is one of the major branches of modern astronomy.
6 August 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011
CSIRO supports Radio Astronomy by operating the Australia Telescope a set of radio telescopes. The Australia Telescope is a national facility that can be used by astronomers throughout Australia and around the world.
Optical telescopes—telescopes that collect visible light—show us shining stars, glowing gas and dark dust. But this doesn’t give us the whole picture of what’s happening in space. Stars, galaxies and gas clouds emit not only visible light but also:
Radio telescopes collect and process radio waves. These waves can be used to make pictures of objects in space. Such radio pictures can look very different to pictures made with visible light.
In the post-war period, CSIRO scientists and engineers were among the pioneers of radio astronomy.
Radio telescopes can be used both night and day, and CSIRO’s telescopes are operated around the clock.
Like visible light, radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation, but their wavelengths are much longer than those of visible light. CSIRO’s telescopes handle radio waves that are typically from 3 mm to 60 cm in length.
Radio waves from space were first detected in the 1930s, but little was done to follow them up until after the Second World War.
In the post-war period CSIRO scientists and engineers were among the pioneers of radio astronomy. They did important work such as:
detecting radio waves from galaxies other than ours for the first time;
locating the centre of our Galaxy; and
helping to map the structure of our Galaxy.
Operating the Australia Telescope requires skills and expertise in the design, construction and maintenance of highly complex technical systems, and in the scheduling of observing time, maintenance and upgrades. CSIRO is expert in areas such as:
CSIRO is applying its skills in radio astronomy technology to the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope.
The SKA is being developed by an international consortium of 17 countries. CSIRO is one of the most active institutions contributing to the project.
Learn about Astrophysics.