Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Astrognome Scrapbook J S Hey

J S Hey

James Stanley Hey FRS was born in Nelson Lancashire on May 3rd 1909 and was an English physicist and radio astronomer. Hey studied physics at the University of Manchester, in 1942 he joined the Army Operational Research Group (AORG).

 His task was to work on radar anti-jamming methods. The Germans were jamming allied radar as were the allies jamming German radar. When in early 1942 the two German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau escaped from Brest harbour in France through the English Channel to Germany, there was uproar in Britain, people assumed that allied radar had been jammed.

The radar was jammed but not by the Germans but by the Sun, there were very active sun spots in early 1942 producing solar flares. It was Hey who realised that sunspots produced the solar flares and also the bursts of radio waves that affected the radar. Later in 1945 Hey used radar to track incoming V2 missiles from Germany. None of his work could be published until after the war.

In 1946 Hey discovered radio waves coming from the constellation of Cygnus the swan. At first these sources were called radio stars, but later found to be supernova remnants, normal galaxies and new types of galaxy located near, or beyond, the limits of optical telescopes, Hey's discovery initiated an era of research that transformed observational astronomy.

Supernova Cassiopeia A

Sadly much of his pioneering work was overlooked; Hey became Head of the AORG in 1949. He then worked as a researcher at the Royal Radar Establishment at Malvern, where he also continued his radio astronomical observations. From 1966 until his retirement in 1969 he was head of the research department. J.S Hey died on 27th February 2000.

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