The Rebirth of Radio Astronomy

September 17, 2018

In the early 1930s, Bell Labs was experimenting with making wireless transatlantic calls. The communications goliath wanted to understand the static that might crackle across the ocean, so it asked an engineer named Karl Jansky to investigate its sources. He found three: nearby thunderstorms, distant thunderstorms, and a steady hiss, coming from … somewhere. Jansky studied the hiss for a year, using a rudimentary antenna that looked like toppled scaffolding,…