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Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe

Explore the thrilling world of pulsars, quasars, and supermassive black holes with an active radio astronomer.
Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 127.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This course provides a well-balanced treatment of theory, practice, historical background and personal experience. The lecturer is very knowledgeable and covers both theory and observational results. He is affable and includes personal stories about his experiences in radio astronomy including hands-on experience with radio telescopes which makes the course much more relatable and enjoyable. He really conveys his ongoing level of interest and excitement about radio astronomy. The supporting graphics are good and include a variety of diagrams and plots as well as images created from actual radio telescope data. This course requires a basic background in science, mathematics and astronomy and is recommended for persons who have completed high-school level courses in physics and chemistry. (Chemistry applies to the discussion of interstellar molecules.)
Date published: 2024-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting course! If you are interested in Astronomy, Radio astronomy, signal technology, telescopes, cosmology and science in general, this is a great course to check out. Professor is very knowledgeable, articulating and likable. Main highlight of the course is Greenbank Observatory tour which is something I want to do one-day.
Date published: 2023-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just as much an Engineering course as Astronomy Excellent course, very enjoyable prof. I say this is just as much of an engineering course as an astronomy course as the prof spent a lot of time explaining how different radio telescopes are built and how they function. The virtual tour of the Greenbank Observatory was a real highlight of the course. I rank this as a major bonus for this course, as you're not being just told what's up there in space but given a great explanation of how radio astronomers actually detect these objects.
Date published: 2023-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Trully a great course The instructor and the course he put together are brilliant. I didn't have high expectations, I was even unsure whether radio astronomy was something I would be interested in, but the instructor sure made it interesting. He's a very likable guy and showed The course isn't math-heavy or very advanced but isn't overly dumbed-down either. It kept me interested throughout and I have a master's degree in electrical engineering.
Date published: 2023-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses I have taken more than 50 courses from the Great Courses / Wondrium over the years. Radio Astronomy is certainly one of my favorite courses. It is very informative and very well delivered!
Date published: 2023-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Discover the mystery of radio waves I bought the Radio Astronomy course and found it very accessible, interesting, informative and educational. The presenter is clear, logical and interesting.
Date published: 2022-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterly and mind blowing Lockman's engaging style compliments his vast knowledge and experience in the field of radio astronomy. He doesn't gloss over the technical aspects of his field which I admit overtaxed my compact brain, but he is able to present the concepts in such a way that one gets a fundamental understanding and is never bored. After a while he had me realizing that a million years was a short period of time and a few hundred kilometers per second was not very fast and congratulating myself on thinking like an astronomer. I really enjoyed all of his many anecdotes. He is a true pioneer in radio astronomy, and he has accumulated quite a number of stories along the trail.
Date published: 2022-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to the field Just finished the 24-lecture course. Prof Lockman did a stellar job of introducing radio astronomy to a non-technical audience. Lots of pictures of wonderful objects in space, but also a basic grounding in theory and a survey of the observatories all over the world. He explains clearly what we know and what we are still trying to understand. Great Courses administration, bring on more lectures by Prof Lockman. An update of new discoveries since this course would be a good start.
Date published: 2022-07-21
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Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe takes you on a thrilling journey through astounding discoveries with Felix J. Lockman, Ph.D. You'll learn that the dominant molecular structures in interstellar space are all based on carbon, just like Earth. It is likely that any extraterrestrial galactic life would be related to us at least on the molecular level. Will we find other organic lifeforms out there? Radio astronomers don't know. But they're certainly working on it.


Felix J. Lockman

Astronomy, by looking outward, leads us to questions that reflect upon ourselves in very deep ways.


Principal Scientist at the Green Bank Observatory

Felix J. Lockman, Ph.D., is the Green Bank Telescope Principal Scientist at the Green Bank Observatory, a facility of the National Science Foundation. He did his undergraduate work at Drexel University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Lockman's area of research is the structure and evolution of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, with a special emphasis on radio observations of neutral hydrogen. He was project scientist for the Green Bank Telescope during its construction phase and then moved to the Green Bank Observatory, where he was the site director for six years.

Dr. Lockman's research has involved studies of the ionized, neutral atomic, and molecular gas in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. He has published numerous articles in professional journals and edited several books, including Gaseous Halos of Galaxies and But It Was Fun: The First Forty Years of Radio Astronomy at Green Bank. Dr. Lockman's 1990 review article on hydrogen in the Milky Way, coauthored with Dr. John M. Dickey of the University of Tasmania, is the most cited publication in the history of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. In 2013, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his significant studies of neutral hydrogen in our galaxy and others, and for his service to U.S. radio astronomy.

By This Professor

Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe
Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe


Radio Astronomy and the Invisible Universe

01: Radio Astronomy and the Invisible Universe

Even on the clearest, darkest night you cannot see more than five percent of the light from our home galaxy, the Milky Way, because of the blockage of light by dust. Fortunately, the 20th century brought us radio astronomy, the study of radio waves that travel through the dust, opening our "eyes" to a universe we had never imagined....

31 min
Thermal Radio Emission: The Planets

02: Thermal Radio Emission: The Planets

Take a tour of our neighboring planets via their radio emissions and learn how scientists infer their temperatures and energy sources. You'll be shocked by the difference between their images in reflected sunlight-the images we're familiar with-and their appearance when we "see" the radio energy they emit on their own....

29 min
The Birth of Radio Astronomy

03: The Birth of Radio Astronomy

When young engineer Karl Jansky was tasked to find natural radio sources that could interfere with commercial transatlantic radio communications, radio astronomy was born. His work, and that of backyard astronomer Grote Reber, led to the discovery of synchrotron radiation. But it would be decades before scientists understood what these earliest radio astronomers had detected-cosmic rays and magnet...

30 min
The Discovery of Interstellar Hydrogen

04: The Discovery of Interstellar Hydrogen

Not long after the birth of radio astronomy, a Dutch student used what was then known about the physics of atoms to determine that if hydrogen existed in interstellar space, it would produce a specific spectral line at radio wavelengths. In 1951, the line was detected at 21 cm, exactly as predicted. At that moment, our understanding of the universe forever changed....

27 min
Radio Telescopes and How They Work

05: Radio Telescopes and How They Work

Radio telescopes are so large because radio waves contain such a small amount of energy. For example, the signal from a standard cell phone measured one kilometer away is five million billion times stronger than the radio signals received from a bright quasar. Learn how each of these fascinating instruments is designed to meet a specific scientific goal-accounting for their wide variation in form ...

34 min
Mapping the Hydrogen Sky

06: Mapping the Hydrogen Sky

Before there were stars and planets, before there were galaxies, there was hydrogen-and we still have more hydrogen today than any other element. Understanding the quantum physics of this simplest atomic structure, and using the Doppler shift and models of differential rotation in the Milky Way, astronomers have made myriad astounding discoveries about the universe. It all starts with hydrogen....

31 min
Tour of the Green Bank Observatory

07: Tour of the Green Bank Observatory

The Green Bank Observatory is located within the 13,000-acre National Radio Quiet Zone straddling the border of Virginia and West Virginia. Come tour this fascinating facility where astronomers discovered radiation belts around Jupiter, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, and the first known interstellar organic molecule, and began the search for extra-terrestrial life....

29 min
Tour of the Green Bank Telescope

08: Tour of the Green Bank Telescope

At 17 million pounds, and with more than 2,000 surface panels that can be repositioned in real time, this telescope is one of the largest moveable, land-based objects ever built. The dish could contain two side-by-side football fields, but when its panels are brought into focus, the surface has errors no larger than the thickness of a business card. Welcome to this rare insider's view....

31 min
Hydrogen and the Structure of Galaxies

09: Hydrogen and the Structure of Galaxies

Using the laws of physics and electromagnetic radiation, astronomers can "weigh" a galaxy by studying the distribution of its rotating hydrogen. But when they do this, it soon becomes clear something is very wrong: A huge proportion of the galaxy's mass has simply gone missing. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of dark matter-which we now believe accounts for a whopping 90 percent of our own Milky ...

32 min
Pulsars: Clocks in Space

10: Pulsars: Clocks in Space

In the mid-1960s, astronomers discovered signals with predictable periodicity but no known source. In case these signals indicated extraterrestrial life, they were initially labeled LGM, Little Green Men. But research revealed the source of the pulsing radiation to be neutron stars. Learn how a star with a diameter of only a few kilometers and a mass similar to that of our Sun can spin around hund...

30 min
Pulsars and Gravity

11: Pulsars and Gravity

A pulsar's spin begins with its birth in a supernova and can be altered by transfer of mass from a companion star. Learn how pulsars, these precise interstellar clocks, are used to confirm Einstein's prediction of gravitational waves by observations of a double-neutron-star system, and how we pull the pulsar signal out of the noise....

31 min
Pulsars and the 300-Foot Telescope

12: Pulsars and the 300-Foot Telescope

Humans constantly use radio transmission these days, for everything from military communications to garage-door openers. How can scientists determine which signals come from Earth and which come from space? Learn how the 300-foot telescope, located in two radio quiet zones, was built quickly and cheaply. It ended up studying pulsars and hydrogen in distant galaxies, and made the case for dar...

32 min
The Big Bang: The Oldest Radio Waves

13: The Big Bang: The Oldest Radio Waves

Learn about techniques to separate signals originating in receivers from signals originating from outer space. Using a unique antenna located in New Jersey, we'll see how two radio astronomers with curiosity, persistence, and some manual labor, detected the faint radio signals from the big bang, the oldest electromagnetic radiation that can be detected. It tells us of conditions when the uni...

31 min
H II Regions and the Birth of Stars

14: H II Regions and the Birth of Stars

Have you ever looked up to Orion on a dark winter's night and noticed a fuzzy patch near the center of the constellation? You're looking at the Orion nebula, a "nursery" where stars are born every year. Learn why ionization occurs in these H II regions and how this hot plasma produces some of the most beautiful objects in the sky....

31 min
Supernovas and the Death of Stars

15: Supernovas and the Death of Stars

Chances are you would agree with astronomers that gravity is the single most important force or event shaping the world as you know it. But the second most important? That would be supernovas, and nothing you know would be here without them. Learn how super-massive stars can explode at the end of their lives, releasing energy that outshines 10 billion Suns....

32 min
Radio Stars and Early Interferometers

16: Radio Stars and Early Interferometers

When radio astronomers discovered a sky full of small radio sources of unknown origin, they built telescopes using multiple antennas to try to understand them. Learn how and why interferometers were developed and how they have helped astronomers study quasars-those massively bright, star-like objects that scientists now know only occur in galaxies whose gas is falling into a supermassive black hol...

30 min
Radio Source Counts

17: Radio Source Counts

Radio source counts have led to great discoveries about the universe, even though each individual radio source isn't fully understood. Between massive black holes and starbursts, scientists relying in part on astronomical surveys now believe galaxies can have different evolutionary tracks and histories. And the universe itself? It seems to be not only evolving, but evolving through stages....

31 min
Active Galactic Nuclei and the VLA

18: Active Galactic Nuclei and the VLA

The need for a new generation of radio interferometers to untangle extragalactic radio sources led to the development of the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. With its twenty-seven radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration, it gives both high sensitivity and high angular resolution. The VLA provided a deeper and clearer look at galaxies than ever before, and the results were astonishing....

31 min
A Telescope as Big as the Earth

19: A Telescope as Big as the Earth

Learn how astronomers use very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) with telescopes thousands of miles apart to essentially create a radio telescope as big as the Earth. With VLBI, scientists not only look deep into galactic centers, study cosmic radio sources, and weigh black holes, but also more accurately tell time, study plate tectonics, and more-right here on planet Earth....

31 min
Galaxies and Their Gas

20: Galaxies and Their Gas

In visible light, scientists had described galaxies as "island universes." But since the advent of radio astronomy, we've seen galaxies connected by streams of neutral hydrogen, interacting with and ripping the gasses from each other. Now astronomers have come to understand that these strong environmental interactions are not a secondary feature-they are key to a galaxy's basic structure and appea...

31 min
Interstellar Molecular Clouds

21: Interstellar Molecular Clouds

In the late 1960s, interstellar ammonia and water vapor were detected. Soon came formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and the discovery of giant molecular clouds where we now know stars and planets are formed. With improvements in radio astronomy technology, today's scientists can watch the process of star formation in other systems. The initial results are stunning....

32 min
Star Formation and ALMA

22: Star Formation and ALMA

With an array of 66 radio antennas located in the high Chilean desert above much of the earth's atmosphere, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is a radio telescope tuned to the higher frequencies of radio waves. Designed to examine some of the most distant and ancient galaxies ever seen, ALMA has not only revealed new stars in the making, but planetary systems as well....

33 min
Interstellar Chemistry and Life

23: Interstellar Chemistry and Life

Interstellar clouds favor formation of carbon-based molecules over any other kind-not at all what statistical models predicted. In fact, interstellar clouds contain a profusion of chemicals similar to those that occur naturally on Earth. If planets are formed in this rich soup of organic molecules, is it possible life does not have to start from scratch on each planet?...

33 min
The Future of Radio Astronomy

24: The Future of Radio Astronomy

Learn about the newest radio telescopes and the exhilarating questions they plan to address: Did life begin in space? What is dark matter? And a new question that has just arisen in the past few years: What are fast radio bursts? No matter how powerful these new telescopes are, radio astronomers will continue pushing the limits to tell us more and more about the universe that is our home....

37 min
Three New Discoveries

25: Three New Discoveries

Imagine being there for the discovery of the moons of Jupiter, the Theory of Relativity, or the first glimpse of exoplanets. One of the greatest things about studying a subject such as radio astronomy is that new discoveries are constantly being made and our professors want you to be part of it.

Join Professor Jay Lockman as he unveils three brand new discoveries: fast radio bursts, interstellar chemistry, and a mysterious wind from the center of the Milky Way. As the Green Bank Telescope Principal Scientist at the Green Bank Observatory, where these discoveries originated, Professor Lockman is sharing ground-breaking news. In fact, he was literally on his way to the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society to announce these findings when he filmed this segment for us, giving you access to groundbreaking new findings.

If you enjoyed Professor Lockman’s radio astronomy course, this is a spectacular addition to enhance your knowledge and understanding with brand new information. But even if you haven’t yet experienced Radio Astronomy, this additional lecture gives you unique insights into some landmark discoveries that will go down in history. Each one is presented with careful attention to detail and context, so you can fully appreciate the significance and impact.

13 min