Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific presentation The course was presented in the right tone and with the right pacing. The on-site tour to an actual radio telescope is priceless. The instructor is very inspiring and knowledgeable; his love for this field is contagious. Time well spent!
Date published: 2020-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I want to be a Radio Astronomer!! The course Radio Astronomy with Professor Felix J. Lockman is absolutely fantastic! Dr. Lockman takes the viewer on a tour of the subject from it's history through present day research. Jay walks the learner through the elemental science concepts essential to understanding radio waves and how they are used to see what is actually in the universe. Professor Lockman is an exemplar for what I expect from the Great Courses lectures. I have purchased over 350 lecture sets and experienced many brilliant professors such as Dr. Hazen, Sean Carroll, Mark Whittle, Filipenko, Rufus Fears (RIP), and many others, and Dr. Lockman is a pleasure to learn from in every aspect. His field experience, deep research and insights into the dedicated scientists (and amateurs astronomers) is stimulating. His lectures our exciting as he is of his profession, and the 2 lecture tour of the Green Bank Radio telescope is mesmerizing. Other commenters have praised Dr. Lockman perfectly. There is much to gain from this course! OUTSTANDING professor and course content.
Date published: 2020-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating side realizations. This was the most enjoyable and eagerly watched of the eight Great Courses I've bought so far, despite understanding little of the scientific and technical content--which comprised much of the course. First of all, Dr. Lockman is truly an appealing lecturer, obviously enthusiastic about his field, at least trying to make things understandable to untrained people, and using occasionally an understated but funny sense of humor. But as with some of the other Great Courses I've taken, the value lies not in the detailed information conveyed, but rather in the sort of side observations one can make emerging from the detailed content. For example, in this course these include a perspective on how early in the exploration of radio astronomy we really are, the related fact that we know relatively little, in fact nearly nothing about the universe we live in, the relatively miniscule information of this sort that our senses give us, and that, by necessary implication, how very little of the universe we live in that as individuals we know, as we go placidly through our daily lives ensconced in our myriad assumptions. It's funny. There are very many extremely interesting side roads one can take from watching this course, and I spend many nights in bed before going to sleep pondering them. These side roads expand one's consciousness and self, and in this regard are among the most edifying mental activities that one can engage in. A single example: imagine a trip through the Milky Way at some multiple of the speed of light, and what you would see doing this, the likely answer being, amusingly, nearly nothing, despite the hundreds of billions of stars. So that this course in radio astronomy turns out to be an extraordinary engine of personal growth--who knew? But then that has been my experience with some of the Great Courses--I often don't understand, or really have an interest in what is to me their excessively detailed content, but the spinoff macro or meta realizations are worth a great deal. A criticism I've expressed to a friend about the Great Courses is "too many trees and not enough forest", in other words a need for less detailed information and more interpretation. Recognizing, of course, that these many trees are just what appeals to others.
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Course Well Presented With light in the visible spectrum being limited, looking at the universe with other spectra reveals a lot of additional information. I'm glad I got this course.
Date published: 2020-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting and Inspiring Content thorough and clear, delivery engaging and professional. Found it both informational and inspiring. Highly recommend it.
Date published: 2020-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Professor loves what he does every day. Professor Lockman certainly knows his profession with a great depth of knowledge he easily conveys.His choice of graphics was brilliant. I learned a lot
Date published: 2020-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One Home Run After Another A fascinating tour of the Universe provided by someone who knows the history and significance of his topic with unprecedented breadth. Professor Lockman's enthusiasm is infectious and I wish this extraordinary material had been available to me when I was a young person looking up at the stars and begging for someone to take me on a tour. Thank you Professor Lockman!
Date published: 2020-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very detailed but understandable This course is well produced and easy to follow. Some of the information is technical but the author and course instructor is easy to follow. The presentation is clear, focused, and well organized. Like most Great Courses there is much more to the topic than every imagined. Glad I purchased this course for download. I would do video as there are many course pictures that make the course understandable.
Date published: 2020-05-19
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Radio Astronomy: Observing the Invisible Universe
Course Trailer
Radio Astronomy and the Invisible Universe
1: 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
2: 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
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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
8: 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
9: 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
Felix J. Lockman

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


University of Massachusetts Amherst


Principal Scientist at the Green Bank Observatory

About Felix J. Lockman

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.

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