Robert Hanbury-Brown
(1916-2002)

 

British radio astronomer who participated in the early development of radio-astronomy techniques and later in designing a radio interferometer that permits considerably greater resolution in the results provided by radio telescopes.
Hanbury-Brown was born in Aruvankadu, India, and studied engineering at Brighton Polytechnic and the City and Guilds College before joining a radar-research team under the auspices of the Air Ministry in 1936. After World War II he joined the staff at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. In 1960 he was made professor at Victoria University, Manchester, moving in 1962 to the University of Sydney, Australia.
Hanbury-Brown became one of the first astronomers to construct a radio map of the sky. In 1949 he detected radio waves emanating from the Andromeda nebula at a distance of 2.2 million light years. To improve resolution, Hanbury-Brown and his colleagues devised the radio interferometer, and as a result Cygnus A became the first radio source traced to a definite optical identification, even though it had a magnitude (brightness) of only 17.9.
Hanbury-Brown developed the technique of intensity interferometry 1956, and has used the stellar interferometer at Narrabi Observatory in Australia to study the sizes of hotter stars.


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