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Radio Telescopes Are Hollywood’s Biggest Stars

It’s amazing how many iconic and forgotten radio telescopes pop-up in movies, TV shows, and documentaries.

The human eye was our first space image detector. On a beautifully clear night at the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand with the Milky Way displayed above us, we can see about 5,000 stars.

But to really see – that is, to detect and communicate into space – a radio telescope is needed. Such devices can receive radio waves from astronomical sources in the sky and are the main observing instrument used in radio astronomy. Whereas optical telescopes study the light wave portion of the spectrum, radio telescopes focus on the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum emitted by almost all astronomical objects.

Even if COVID-19 has closed many optical and RF observatories and thus impeded critical research, astronomer and engineers can still learn about these amazing devices through entertaining movies, TV series, and documentaries. What follows is a collection of such entertainment – in no particular order. The only prerequisite for these selections is the inclusion of a radio telescope in the film.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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