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Telescopes from the Ground Up
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Radio telescope design
Diagram showing the basic design of a radio telescope. An image of some of the telescopes in the Very Large Array is embedded.

Radio telescopes are reflecting telescopes. A huge parabolic dish collects incoming radio waves and focuses them at the receiver, which is mounted at the focal point of the dish.

Radio dishes are big, but some radio waves are so long that a single dish is too small to collect them. Astronomers tackle this problem by building arrays, like the one shown here, in which computers allow many individual dishes to work together as one.

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