Reber, Grote


Reber, Grote
▪ 2003

      American astronomer and radio engineer (b. Dec. 22, 1911, Wheaton, Ill.—d. Dec. 20, 2002, Tasmania, Australia), was widely regarded as the father of radio astronomy. After learning of engineer Karl Jansky's discovery in 1932 of interstellar radio signals, Reber began attempts to detect such signals with various receivers; ultimately, in 1937, he constructed the world's first radio telescope—a bowl-shaped antenna 9.4 m (31 ft) in diameter—in the backyard of his home in Wheaton. Reber spent the next few years identifying different sources of radio signals and by 1942 had created the first radio maps of the sky. He moved his radio telescope to Sterling, Va., in 1947 and later worked as a radio physicist for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. Reber installed a new radio telescope in Hawaii in 1951. Three years later he moved to Tasmania, where he worked with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and focused his research on low-frequency cosmic radio waves. Among the numerous awards accorded Reber were the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's highest honour—the Catherine Wolf Bruce Gold Medal—in 1962 and the Royal Astronomical Society's Jackson-Gwilt Medal in 1983.

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▪ American astronomer
born Dec. 22, 1911, Chicago, Ill., U.S.
died Dec. 20, 2002, Tasmania, Austl.

      American astronomer and radio engineer who built the first radio telescope and was largely responsible for the early development of radio astronomy (radio and radar astronomy), which opened an entirely new research front in the study of the universe.

      When radio engineer Karl Jansky announced his discovery of radio signals from the stars in 1932, Reber tried to adapt his shortwave radio receiver to pick up interstellar radio waves. He failed, but in 1937 he built a bowl-shaped antenna 9.4 metres (31 feet) in diameter that served as the only radio telescope in the world until after World War II. By 1942 he had completed the first preliminary radio maps of the sky, concentrating on high-frequency shortwave signals, and discovered that in certain regions radio signals are particularly strong but apparently unrelated to any visible celestial object.

      In 1947 Reber moved his radio telescope to Sterling, Va., and in Washington, D.C., he served as chief of the Experimental Microwave Research Section. In 1951 in Hawaii he built a new radio telescope and concentrated on mapping celestial sources of low-frequency long-wave signals 5.5 to 14 metres in wavelength. In 1954 he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Tasmania, Austl., one of the few places on the surface of the Earth at which the atmosphere is occasionally transparent to electromagnetic radiation more than 30 metres in wavelength. Although he accepted a position in 1957 at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, W.Va., where a radio telescope 43 metres (140 feet) across had just been completed, he returned to Bothwell, Tasmania, in 1961 to help complete the mapping of sources of radio waves with a 270-metre wavelength.

      An energetic and entertaining speaker, in his later years Reber spoke out on what he perceived to be problems with relativity theory and big-bang cosmology. He believed that much of the redshift observed in the spectra of distant galaxies was due to the forward scattering of light as it traversed the cosmos.

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Universalium. 2010.

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