Karl Guthe Jansky (nonfiction)

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Karl Janske.
Karl Guthe Jansky (October 22, 1905 – February 14, 1950) was an American physicist and radio engineer who in August 1931 first discovered radio waves emanating from the Milky Way.

He is considered one of the founding figures of radio astronomy.

In 1928 he joined the Bell Telephone Laboratories site in Holmdel, New Jersey. Bell Labs wanted to investigate atmospheric and ionospheric properties using "short waves" (wavelengths of about 10–20 meters) for use in transatlantic radio telephone service. As a radio engineer, Jansky was assigned the job of investigating sources of static that might interfere with radio voice transmissions.

At Bell Telephone Laboratories Jansky built an antenna designed to receive radio waves at a frequency of 20.5 MHz (wavelength about 14.6 meters). It was mounted on a turntable that allowed it to be rotated in any direction, earning it the name "Jansky's merry-go-round". It had a diameter of approximately 100 ft. and stood 20 ft. tall. By rotating the antenna on a set of four Ford Model-T tires, the direction of a received signal could be pinpointed. A small shed to the side of the antenna housed an analog pen-and-paper recording system.

After recording signals from all directions for several months, Jansky eventually categorized them into three types of static: nearby thunderstorms, distant thunderstorms, and a faint steady hiss of unknown origin. He spent over a year investigating the source of the third type of static.

By comparing his observations with optical astronomical maps, Jansky concluded that the radiation was coming from the Milky Way and was strongest in the direction of the center of the galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.

His discovery was widely publicized, appearing in the New York Times of May 5, 1933.

Jansky was re-assigned to another project and did no further work in the field of astronomy.

Several scientists were interested in Jansky's discovery, but radio astronomy remained a dormant field for several years, due in part to Jansky's lack of formal training as an astronomer. His discovery had come in the midst of the Great Depression, and observatories were wary of taking on any new and potentially risky projects.

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