'Milky Way Explorer' software gets new Solar System installment
Imagine seeing the Sun, planets, and a myriad other objects in our Solar System as you have never seen them before – in invisible radio light! That is the experience you will get through the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's (NRAO) newly released Solar System installment of its popular Milky Way Explorer, an online tour of our interstellar neighborhood guided by the actual astronomers who explore it using radio waves.
Through an entertaining and informative series of videos, NRAO's Science Visualization Team presents multimedia-rich tours of the radio Sun as well as many of the planets, moons, and asteroids that orbit it. At each stop along the way, planetary radio astronomers reveal the new science and exciting details we have learned about our Solar System neighbors through the use of radio telescopes.
Unlike familiar optical telescopes, which can only study objects illuminated by our Sun and other stars, radio telescopes can see the otherwise invisible cold, dark features in space. This includes the faint radio light that is naturally emitted by the molecules and chemicals that make up the atmospheres of planets and certain moons in our Solar System.
Radio dishes, when paired with powerful radar transmitters on Earth, can also reveal hidden landscapes, such as the Moon's dust-layered surface and Venus's alien features shrouded behind its thick clouds.
The Milky Way Explorer, which was launched in 2013, also includes dozens more videos showcasing the diverse radio astronomy studies of our spiral island of stars, stellar nurseries, and dark matter. A third set of interviews and animations is scheduled for 2015 to share more radio astronomy discoveries made inside our Galaxy and among the nearest neighboring galaxies of our Universe.