Meet an OSU grad who gets to work on one of the coolest telescopes ever.

W

elcome back from the break, and we hope everyone is enjoying their winter term of school!

Today, we wanted to give you a great example of an Oregon college graduate who went on to do awesome things—the kinds of awesome things we talk about right here on Get Real!

Michael Thorburn graduated from Oregon State University some time ago, with a degree in mathematics. After that, he got a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.

From there he went on to do a whole slew of awesome stuff, including being named the head of the Department of Engineering for ALMA.

What’s ALMA? It’s what happens when scientists and engineers work together to make a super-telescope, with the power of its 66 combined individual telescopes. We mentioned it a while back. Also, check out this video that ALMA released.

Here's an image ALMA produced—this is what radio telescopes are capable of! Image by European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Here's about what the ALMA radio telescopes look like—these ones are the prototypes, gazing into the heavens. Image by ESO.

It stands for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, because it’s a radio telescope which scans in the millimeter frequencies. As an awesome side-note, ALMA is Spanish for “soul.”

We’ve also talked about the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which is a lot like ALMA. The differences are these: ALMA is much nearer completion (scheduled to be done in March, as opposed to SKA, whose construction begins in 2016); and SKA is going to be a bit bigger, since it’s newer.

Here's what the completed ALMA will look like. Image by ESO.

Why should you care about radio telescopes? Because you can look back in time—Because only travels so fast, the further away from Earth you can look, the older the stuff you see actually is.

“We can look at stars 13.5 billion light years away,” Thorburn said. “The Big Bang is said to have happened 13.7 billion years ago.”

Awesome engineering.

Read on:

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