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The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio-Astronomical Discovery

The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio-Astronomical Discovery

Gerrit Verschuur

Dept. of Physics

The University of Memphis

Feb. 22, 2006, 4:00pm, Manning Hall 201

Refreshments served at 3:30pm, Manning Hall 222

Radio astronomy is one of the great adventures of the human spirit. Exploratory behavior, the primal urge that drives us into the unknown, is rooted in curiosity and expressed in a deep human hunger for venturing into new worlds, a hunger that has been dramatically expressed in thousands of years of slow, systematic, and sometimes frightening journeys of exploration and evolution.

Such journeys, overland and across the seas and oceans, have carried people from their birthplaces to the most distant corners of the planet and farther. Like pollen on the wind, our species has moved from the caves of earth to the craters of the moon. Our instinct drives us on, not just to the planets, but further, into the universe beyond our senses where profound mysteries have been uncovered, mysteries that challenge our imagination and our capacity for comprehension.

Radio waves from space carry information about some of the most intriguing natural phenomena yet discovered by human beings. This is the bailiwick of radio astronomy. Faint radio signals from space memorialize the death of stars and tell of awesome explosions triggered by black holes in galaxies in the depths of space.

They contain the secrets of interstellar gas clouds and carry messages from the remnants of the Big Bang that propelled our universe into existence. The story of radio astronomy is what this abundantly illustrated talk will be about, the tale of the constant quest to express in clearer visual forms the wondrous information carried by radio waves from space.

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