Overview Topics

Lessons Overview
Light & the Electromagnetic Spectrum
Optical Astronomy and Its Tools
Radio Astronomy and Its Tools
Advantages of Radio Astronomy
Disdvantages of Radio Astronomy
Types of Radiation
Radio Sources I
Radio Sources II
The Birth of Stars
The Death of Stars
Pulsar History
Neutron Stars and Pulsars

Lessons Overview : Advantages of Radio Astronomy

Optical and radio astronomers look at the same objects with their telescopes, but they see very different things. Both types of astronomers study stars, planets and moons in our solar system, our galaxy (the Milky Way), other galaxies, stellar nebulae, and many other objects.

Optical astronomers can learn things about these objects like their distances from Earth, their sizes, their temperatures, their motion through space, and their chemical compositions.

Radio astronomers, however, can actually observe the electric and magnetic fields of objects. This means they can study the motion of charged particles around these objects, which gives us information about the object's motion, mass, and energy.

Radio astronomy has some advantages over optical astronomy. Radio astronomy can be performed any time, day or night, since visible light from the sun does not interfere with radio emissions from other objects in the sky. Optical astronomy can only be done after sundown. Another advantage is that radio astronomy does not depend as much on atmospheric conditions. Radio waves are not blocked by dust or water vapor (clouds) in the atmosphere, so radio astronomy can be done in the rain. Optical astronomy requires a clear night. The only time radio astronomy cannot be performed is when there is lightning. Operating radio equipment during a thunderstorm corrupts data and jeopardizes the equipment, besides being dangerous to the human operators.

The Milky Way in optical wavelengths

The Milky Way in radio wavelengths