How Radio Telescope Works

How Radio Telescope Works

Radio telescopes tap radio waves emitted by radio sources through a large parabolic antenna. Astronomers rely on radio telescopes to study the frequency, power, and timing of radio emission from celestial objects to build on the understanding of the universe. Celestial objects such as active galaxies produce radiofrequency radiations that are only visible in the radio region of the electromagnetic spectrum. A radio telescope has three major components; an antenna to collect the incoming radio waves, a receiver, and an amplifier responsible for boosting weak signals to measurable levels, and a recorder to record the signals. The device function is to receive radio waves from space and here is how its components work.

The antennae

The dish antennae are formed by two sets of counter-rotating rings that are used to focus the incoming radio waves. The rings are mounted on a central mast, which is moved in relation to the dish to position it accurately towards the focus cabin. The feedlot is like an envelope, which confines the radio waves and focuses them into a narrow beam that is used to communicate with satellites orbiting in space.

The feedlot is also used to communicate with ground-based stations located in cities and towns. This communication is made possible by dedicated receivers located at various international airports. The signals that are picked up from the feedlot are then transmitted towards their respective destinations where they are received by satellite dishes owned by other companies

Receiver and amplifier

According to the history of the radio timeline, the original invention fundamentally introduces the concept of data receiver and data transmitter. The receiver and the amplifier are responsible for boosting the weak radio signals to a measurable level. The weak radio signals are directed from the feedlot into the receiver located in the focus cabin. The incoming radio signals are amplified about a million times in the receiver. A telescope often consists of a suite of receivers that are optimized for different frequency ranges and applications. Amplifiers should be kept cool because they are sensitive and may cause interference due to the noise generated by the movement of atoms in the metal. They are cooled by helium gas refrigerators to prevent thermal noise in the electronics from swamping up the incoming radio signals.


In a radio telescope, the signals from the antenna are first amplified so they will be strong enough to travel along with large distances through fiber optic cables. They are then carried by these cables into the cabin at the top of the tower. The signals are then split up, and each one is sent down to a different receiver. There might be as many as 100 receivers, each of them sensitive to one frequency range or narrow set of frequencies.

The best observatories can detect very weak signals and therefore have an extremely large collecting area, much larger than the mirror or lens in an optical telescope. The largest radio telescopes today have collecting areas of hundreds of meters squared.

Each receiver records the signals it receives onto a hard drive. These drives are arranged in racks in the focus cabin and cover most of its floor space.

There are a number of benefits that you will notice when you use a Radio Telescope. These include:

1) If you live in a densely populated area such as a city or a village, the radio telescope will be able to pick up the signals that you need without any difficulty. This is not possible with ordinary antennas.

2) You can connect the single-dish radio telescope to your computer so that you can receive signals from the satellites. This way, you can listen to your favorite music and enjoy dance and rock music from different satellite stations without any difficulty.

3) The single-dish radio telescopes are easily available in the market and are easy to install. They are also cheap when compared to other types of antennas. Therefore, it is not difficult to install it and start using it right away.

4) The single-dish radio telescope is compact in size. It is almost five inches wide. 

   As you can see, a  radio telescope is a specialized antenna and collection of electronic equipment, used to receive and study radio waves emanating from stars and galaxies in outer space. Radio signals received from space such as radiation, temperature, and hydrogen density are then studied by radio telescopes. Radio telescopes use various categories of antennas to focus the transmitted wave. The dish-type antennas are occasionally used to track the orbit and position of space shuttles, examine the earth’s atmosphere and take part in the tracking of radio sources in deep space. The dish antennae are made up of a circular parabolic reflector with a flat surface (dish) to focus the transmission from space into a concentrated point. Frequencies that are normally received from space are up to 300 GHz on either side of the visible spectrum.

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