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Paths to Discovery in Radio Astronomy – Prediction and Serendipity

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One of the most important events in twentieth century astronomy was the birth of radio astronomy. For the first time ever astronomers were able to view the Universe in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum outside the narrow optical window. These early discoveries were usually unexpected and often unpredicted. They were initially made by individual scientists from other disciplines who built very unconventional “telescopes”. This included the development of aperture synthesis and I will comment, from an Australian perspective, on the parallel development paths in Cambridge and Sydney. These early pioneers discovered a plethora of cosmic phenomena that revolutionized our knowledge of the Universe. I will explore some of the paths which lead to these discoveries in radio astronomy to illustrate the roles played by serendipity, prediction and explanation.

This talk is part of the The Hewish Lectures series.

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