To see beyond what astronomers can see using traditional telescopes, which count on visible light for their viewing, a radio telescope is designed to hear the sounds from outer space as opposed to the sights. Most designed as a parabolic antenna, a radio telescope allows the user to listen to sounds emanating from sources in space.
Most people with an interest in space have probably heard of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Activity (SETA), which is a group of people monitoring space for signals with a radio telescope that may indicate life from outer space. To date there has been no success in isolating sounds from space that can be blamed on extraterrestrial sources, except of course in movies.
Neutral hydrogen and carbon monoxide are examples of radio waves picked up with a radio telescope, along with other sources of electromagnetic signals picked up as sound. The first radio telescope in use was back in 1937, a dish about 30-feet in diameter, with interest growing ever since and the first arrays being put in use in the 1950s. Today, the largest is the 1894-foot diameter RATAN600 in Russia.
Sound From Space Sparks Science Fiction Imagination
With the ability to receive sound signals from space picked up on a radio telescope, the imagination of writers and amateur star gazers have fueled by beliefs that some of the sounds are being created by other life in space. Continual argument persists on the existence of life in space and signals not readily identified is used as questionable indications of extraterrestrial life.
A very large array of radio telescope dishes in New Mexico boasts 27 dish antenna, each with a diameter of about 82 feet. They work in tandem searching the skies for sounds, acknowledging that considering the speed of sound is much slower than the speed of light, any sound picked up could be from yesterday or hundred of years ago.
Under construction in Western Europe is a low frequency array radio telescope, which will consist of 25,000 smaller antenna designed to develop radio pictures of the sky based on the origins and current location of the sources of sounds picked up by the array. Clusters of antenna will be spread out over an area approximately 220 miles square. With the added power to pull in radio signals from space it is hoped a better map of this galaxy and adjacent galaxies can provide a better understanding of the space being lived in.