Ryle's early work centred on studies of radio waves from the Sun, sunspots, and a few nearby stars. He guided the Cambridge radio astronomy group in the production of radio source catalogues. The Third Cambridge Catalogue (1959) helped lead to the discovery of the first quasi-stellar object (quasar).
To map such distant radio sources as quasars, Ryle developed a technique
called aperture synthesis. By using two radio telescopes and changing
the distance between them, he obtained data that, upon computer analysis,
provided tremendously increased resolving power. In the mid-1960s Ryle
put into operation two telescopes on rails that at the maximum distance
of 1.6 km (1 mile) provided results comparable to a single telescope
1.6 km in diameter. This telescope system was used to locate the first
pulsar, which had been discovered in 1967 by Hewish and Jocelyn Bell
of the Cambridge group.
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