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).