Or alternatively: Why don't antennas look like telescopes?

If visible light and radio transmissions are the same thing, why is there such a difference in the equipment we use for augmenting it?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Because the wavelengths are very different. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 13, 2015 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Newtonian telescopes are optical versions of a dish antenna. $\endgroup$
    – garyp
    Oct 13, 2015 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ Radio astronomy dishes are very similar to the curved mirrors used in reflecting telescopes, and for the very good reason that they work in the same way. Antennas, as in your TV aerial, aren't dishes because they don't need to form an image - they just measure integrated intensity. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 17:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Compare the design of Netwonian telescope and a radio telescope like this. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Satellite dishes look like mirror telescopes to me ... $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


We can see with an antenna, but we need intermediary equipment to convert the radio waves into objects we can sense with our biologically evolved sensory organs. Here is a link, for example, to an antenna that can focus radio waves to a point: http://news.mit.edu/2012/new-metamaterial-lens-focuses-radio-waves-1114. With the proper equipment to read the tightly focused radio waves, tiny objects like molecules can be probed and images can be produced.


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