Cosmic Times

Cosmic Times

Age of the universe:
6 billion years
Size of the universe:
4 billion light years

Radio ‘Ear' on the Universe Being Built

Photo of the Mark 1 radio telescope under construction

Image credit: Jodrell Bank, University of Manchester

Jodrell Bank's Mark 1 radio telescope under construction.

Construction continues for what will be Earth's largest steerable radio antenna for studying radio waves from space. The huge, 250-foot-wide metal dish of the Mark 1 radio telescope being built at Jodrell Bank in England is designed to be fully adjustable.

Astronomers have found that the sky glows not only in visible light, but also in radio waves. This telescope will allow astronomers to explore the entire sky for radio transmissions – something they cannot do today. It will also be able to investigate the recently discovered 1420.4 Megahertz radio emissions thought to be coming from hydrogen gas at the center of the Milky Way. The MK1 will replace an older antenna at Jodrell Bank that is only slightly adjustable – it relies heavily on the spinning of Earth in its orbit to change its view of the heavens.

Despite that limitation, the eight-year-old parabolic aerial has led to some important discoveries which more than made the case for building the Mark 1, according to its designer Dr. Bernard Lovell of the University of Manchester. Among the most startling discoveries was that there are radio emissions coming from the Great Andromeda Nebula and that the brightest radio emitter in the night sky is from a little nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia. •

A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC