Book Review

High-Sensitivity Radio Astronomy

Cambridge Contemporary Astrophysics series
N. Jackson and R. J. Davis, eds.
Cambridge University Press, 1997, 303 pages

This book consists of 52 articles on various topics in radio astronomy from a conference at Jodrell Bank in 1996. While some of the longer articles are fascinating, most of the articles aren't long enough to say much beyond a basic reporting of major findings.

Achieving high sensitivity is a difficult problem in radio astronomy. Sensitivity and angular resolution are both acutely compromised at radio wavelengths; the first radio images of supernovas at some wavelengths have been acquired only recently. Only a tiny fraction of stars are even detectable with the current generation of radio telescopes. Most imaging of radio sources still requires either interferometry or tedious scanning one point at a time with a dish. Significant progress in this field will probably not only require new technology, but also putting ultra-large antennas out in space.

Most of the articles discuss such topics as circumstellar masers and determining the Hubble constant, and how these findings relate to theories of stellar evolution and stellar nuclear chemistry. Others merely catalog the radio sources that they have observed. The last section gives an overview of the bigger, better, badder antennas that are being planned. Only a few articles discuss technical issues, such as high electron mobility transistors or antenna design. The main value of this book would be to astronomers who missed the meeting--or who slept through it--and need to know which objects their colleagues are studying, their ascension and declination, and their intensities.

December 17, 2005 Back