Sunday, June 24, 2007

Radio Free Emory

Back in 1985, political scientists at Emory University wanted to get a peek behind the Iron Curtain. So they installed a 25-foot satellite dish at the top of a campus parking garage, wired up a TV and VCR in the stairwell, and tuned in to a Soviet TV feed from a satellite above Africa. For a few years, they watched and analyzed Soviet TV shows. One professor even got a book out of it: Split Signals: Television and Politics in the Soviet Union.

But the dissolution of the USSR rendered the dish obsolete. It sat unused for years until the physics department got to thinking: why not turn it in to a radio telescope?

So they fixed up the structure, installed a new 21 cm receiver (21 cm is a hydorgen emission line useful for galactic mapping), and got "first light" in 2006.

Now Emory students can get hands-on experience observing with a radio telescope.

How's that for swords into plowshares?

Read more about the telescope at Emory's physics department site. Click on "View the dish show."

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