The Invisible Universe by nachtricht


The Invisible Universe

5 tracks

Running time: 1:16:45
Released: 10/2015

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  01   Kippersreich - 13:19
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  02   Max Planck Strasse - 20:36
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  03   Pulsare - 13:50
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  04   Radiocontinuum - 17:18
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  05   Spektroskopie - 11:42
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More Info

Recently while on a Rhineland tour we were given an unscheduled two hour stop at the site of the Effelsberg radio telescope in Germany and I was inspired to write the music I’d planned for a while on the work of radio telescopes to provide data otherwise out of our sight. Until year 2000 Effelsberg had been the largest fully steerable radio telescope on earth. A hiking path leads past the telescope, and along the way we found cherries to pull from the trees and eat. In 2004 part of the site was turned into a planet trail with information panels about the solar system with its planets, the trail ending with a 39cm model of the sun next to an interesting visitor centre.

The telescope is operated by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn. The music titles come from the various parts of the equipment and its work, whilst Max Planck Strasse is actually little more than a dirt road. Some 45% of observing time is generously given to external astronomers. To be dropped off at this place so unexpectedly – what a holiday bonus!

Of course the static from spacecraft Nachtricht has been tracked by radio telescopes large and small regularly over the years. A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used for radio astronomy but also to collect data from satellites and space probes. They are typically large and parabolic, used singly or in arrays, and the operate in the radio frequency part of the electro-magnetic spectrum.

They are located far from centres of population to avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI) from TV, radar etc, just as optical telescopes are sited to avoid light pollution. But whereas the latter are often placed on mountain tops, radio telescopes are often placed in valleys to help shield them from EMI, as is the case with Effelsberg.

The first telescope (1932) to detect static that might interfere with radio telephone services has its antenna rotating on a set of four Ford Model-T tyres! It detected static from thunderstorms, but also a steady hiss of unknown origin later tracked down to the centre of our milky way galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

Radar developments in World War II advanced matters, and after the war radio astronomy was in a position to blossom. There are various types of ‘scopes, with special tasks and frequencies. Currently
the biggest is in Puerto Rico , but the largest individual ‘scope is located in Russia. There are currently three radio telescopes actually sited in space. A significant development in 1946 introduced astronomical interferometry, usually needing an array. One use has been to obtain detailed “images” of the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the residual ‘sound’ of our so called ‘big bang’. Radio telescopes also image visible travellers of the skies – pulsars, quasars, galaxies, nebulae, and even radio emissions from planets.

So tread quietly earthlings as you roam the heavens, as I do in the craft Nachtricht – aware now that you might not be as invisible as you think…