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An Introduction to Radio Astronomy Paperback – 5 Dec 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (5 Dec. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052155604X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521556040
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 1.9 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,321,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'… this book is a clear and timely description of the current 'state of the art' on the subject … Written by two of the world's leading radio astronomers … the account is certainly authoritative … there is plenty here to interest and stimulate … If you are looking for an up-to-date review of radio astronomy, from the telescopes and techniques to the fabulous wonders of the Universe they reveal, then this is the book for you.' Geoff Macdonald, Astronomy Now

'The authors are to be praised … a broad coverage of topics … a comprehensive overview of the impact of radio astronomy on astrophysics.' Paul Hewett, Endeavour

'Two grand masters with insight, perspective and detailed knowledge, Bernard F. Burke and Francis Graham-Smith, have filled their sweeping An Introduction to Radio Astronomy with interesting titbits and intricate interconnections.' Carl Heiles, Physics Today

Book Description

Radio astronomy uses unique observational techniques and offers the only way to investigate many phenomena in the Universe. This graduate textbook, by two founders of the field, provides both a clear introduction to radio telescopes and techniques, and a broad overview of the radio universe.

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Jansky's discovery of radio emission from the Milky Way is now seen as the birth of the new science of radio astronomy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Ringrose on 3 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a detailed book that goes into the basic maths as well as providing good descriptions and fundamental principles of radio astronomy. If you are studying the subject then this is a good book that is dedicated to the subject, written by authoritative specialists in the field. It is not a "for Dummies" type book, but equally is not too academic, nor hung up solely on maths and equations.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Advanced Introduction - Targets Researchers and Graduate Astronomy Students, But Accessible to Others 28 May 2006
By Michael Wischmeyer - Published on
Format: Paperback
An Introduction to Radio Astronomy (1997) targets astronomy graduate students and others committed professionally to radio astronomy. The authors - two noted radio astronomers, Bernard F. Burke and Francis Graham-Smith - also hope to interest optical astronomers and others who want to be informed of the principal ideas current in radio astronomy, and may even be thinking of carrying out radio observations that would complement other work in progress.

With a background in geophysics, I did not always find An Introduction to Radio Astronomy to be easy going, but most topics were not out of reach. That is, readers with some background in physics, electrical engineering, and/or signal processing will find substantial familiar ground, including electromagnetics, thermodynamics, Fourier analysis, and spectral analysis. I give five stars to this not-so-easy, self-contained, advanced introduction to radio astronomy.

I found the first six chapters (about 80 pages) to be the most challenging, perhaps due to my limited familiarity with radio telescopes. Key topics included radio telescopes as antenna, signal detection and noise, single-aperture radio telescopes, the two-element interferometer, and aperture synthesis.

Chapter 7 - the absorption, amplification, refraction, and attenuation of radio waves - addresses radiative transfer, astrophysical masers, radio propagation through ionized gas, Faraday rotation of polarized waves, scintillation (radio amplitude variations akin to the optical twinkling of stars), and radio propagation in the earth's atmosphere. Take your time with this chapter as the authors frequently return to these topics.

The remaining nine chapters offer a wide-ranging review of the radio universe and are more immediately accessible to a wider audience. The chapter titles are Galactic Continuum Radiation, The Interstellar Medium (ISM), Galactic Dynamics, Stars, Pulsars, Radio Galaxies and Quasars, Cosmology and the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), Cosmology: Discrete Radio Sources and Gravitational Lenses, and The Place of Radio in Astronomy.

Two Suggestions: I strongly urge the reader to stay the course with the first seven chapters as the later chapters require a basic understanding of radio observation methodologies, antenna temperature, radio brightness temperature, non-thermal radiation, 21 centimeter radiation, bremsstrahlung emission spectra, etc.

Also, a reader that is relatively new to radio astronomy will find it helpful to read at an early stage the three appendices: Appendix 1 - a concise review of Fourier transforms, intended as a review, not as a self-tutorial, Appendix 2 - a general overview of celestial coordinates , distance, and time, and Appendix 3 - a fascinating account of the origins of radio astronomy (1932 -1954).
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Good book covering all fundamentals of radio astronomy 4 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a most excellent introduction to Radio astronomy. The book is well layed out, has good explanations and provides many leads to further study. The book's contents are:
Radio telescopes as antennas. Signal detection and noise. Single-aperture raido telescopes. The two element interferometer. Aperture synthesis. The absorption, amplification, refraction and attenuation of radio waves. Galactic continuum radiation. The interstellar medium. Galactic Dynamics. Stars. Pulsars. Radio galaxies and quasars. Cosmology and the cosmic microwave background. Cosmology: discrete radio sources and gravitational lenses. The place of radio in astronomy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
For the physics-oriented. Radio telescopes, radio objects & emission, the ISM, & compact sources 4 Feb. 2012
By madbadgalaxyman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is well-written and the physical arguments are very clearly explained, so do ignore several ridiculous reviews that give this book a poor rating simply because a reviewer got a headache when she/he was trying to get his mind around the necessarily complex physical arguments that are presented in this astronomy+physics textbook.

This book is very valuable, because it gives you the necessary knowledge for understanding the radio data which is so common in the current literature of professional astronomy. Radio telescopes and the emission mechanisms of radio waves are concisely explained, without bamboozling the reader with too many pages of equations.
Moreover, this book describes, in substantial detail, many topics that are of enormous importance within modern astronomy; for instance, the Interstellar Medium, Galactic & extragalactic radio emission, radio galaxies, supernova remnants, and pulsars. And these are topics which often get minimal space in general textbooks on galaxies!

A large fraction of the universe is only accessible via radio observations, and it would seem that radio observations and data are, today, part of most every scientific paper that is written in astronomy and astrophysics..... therefore, familiarity with radio data is now absolutely essential for any person who wants to truly understand the universe.

This textbook was intended for graduate students and for people that have had substantial exposure to university math and physics, but much of it is accessible to people with only a smattering of maths and physics; the arguments are so clearly presented that a person with only pre-university maths and physics should able to understand large sections of it.

If you are a serious student of astrophysics, you can't do better than reading this book for getting clear explanations of the radio astronomy concepts and terminology that you will find in most of today's astrophysical papers.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Very poor editing and writing style, many errors... 29 April 2007
By Ken - Published on
Format: Paperback
Well, I got to say, this does pass the test of a pretty good introduction to the subject for someone with a good technical background. What others have said stands. That said, the careful reader with be constantly annoyed with the flagrant basic errors of math and language that frequent this text. Where the heck were the editors and proof-readers for this thing? Very often equations are written that are just flat out wrong due to omissions or typos that the reader must deduce. In other cases statements are made in the text I suppose to try to explain a point but in the end just demonstrate that the author's had absolutely no idea what they were talking about since what they state is in fact just plain wrong, oftentimes just plain bad basic math. Finally there is a general sloppiness to the writing style with the frequent use of ambiguous pronouns that often point to the wrong subject or predicate.

Some small examples:

Eq 5.8 is s = s0 + d

(Vectors, little hats over s and s0 to indicate unit vectors, and d is actually the greek letter sigma).

The text following states:

where d is a small vector, normal to s0. (It must be normal, since both s and s0 are unit vectors).

The parenthetical adds absolutely nothing to the understanding of the problem and is IN FACT WRONG. If s and s0 are unit vectors then d CANNOT be normal to EITHER ONE OF THEM. Basic vector math folks, in fact just a basic understanding of a right triangle. Amazing that the authors went out of their way to make a statement that not only contains no illuminating information but is flat out wrong. Not only that, but no proof-reader or editor noticed this obvious error - this is high-school math here. Other examples such as this are throughout the text.

Another example highlighting the awful writing style:

The autocorrelation function is related to the spectrum of f(t); for zero time shift it is simply its square.

Try reading that a few times. The first clause is true. The second clause is extremely confusing. I love that "it" and "its" are in the same clause for starters. To top it off "its" refers to f(t) which would be your last guess unless you already knew what they were trying to say. It is plain bad english. Again, numerous examples throughout the text.

I can't really fault the authors to much here. Writing a book is a very hard task and the authors have taken on a very wide subject and as far as information content goes have done a very good job. Unfortunately it reads a bit like some sloppy class notes. Often the most knowledgable folks, and even the best teachers, are not the best writers. It is the job of the editor to bridge the gap here. In this case the editors at Cambridge University Press should be ashamed of themselves. They have let both the authors and their readers down.

Anyway, I guess I'd recommend, but get ready to be confused and annoyed. And not by the subject matter which is actually quite accessible.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Hard Read 2 Jan. 2008
By Paul - Published on
Format: Paperback
In a graduate course that I was taking on Radio Astronomy, this book was often criticized by the students. In short, it was a difficult book to wade through. If my education had included more study of the Greek alphabet, maybe the long recitations of formulae would not have made this the book you can't pick up. I'm just going to assume that all the math you would want is right here but you don't get to see them in action. It is pretty clearly a course textbook but there are no problems to solve and no attempt to work through examples.

I do want to make a strong plug for the 3 appendices. One is a good introduction to Fourier transforms (27 formulae in 8 pages without any examples worked out - typical for this book); the second discusses celestial coordinates, distances and time; the third is the best 7 page history of radio astronomy that you will find.
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