1933: Radio Astronomy

Photo: K. Jansky. K. Jansky came to AT&T Bell Labs specifically to study noise. Overseas radiotelephone service had just begun and knowing more about noise ? the static that infested the airwaves ? was important. A large antenna that swiveled on a circular track, built in a New Jersey field far from city-made electrical interference, became Jansky's home. He began listening and taking notes.

After five years, Jansky published his findings. Noise always increased when he pointed his antenna at the Milky Way's center, and he therefore concluded that noise came from stars. The implications of this discovery were startling. Jansky had discovered a new tool ? one that could penetrate space, dust, and planetary clouds ? with which astronomers could probe the mysteries of space.

Photo: Early radio telescope Yet Jansky received no accolades from the scientists of his day. His "star noise" went largely unappreciated, and he died in relative obscurity at the age of 44.

Radio astronomy later enabled AT&T researchers to hear the echo of the Big Bang.