Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Science Updates


Polarized light is a familiar phenomenon because the scattering or reflection of light results in one of its two components being preferentially absorbed. The majority of sunlight on Earth, for example, is preferentially polarized due to scattering in the atmosphere (this helps make polarized sunglasses effective).


A maser, like a laser, is a source of bright, monochromatic electromagnetic radiation, with the difference being that maser radiation is not optical light but rather longer wavelength microwave radiation.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a "research institute" of the Smithsonian Institution. It is joined with the Harvard College Observatory (HCO) to form the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Because these research activities share Harvard and Smithsonian staff and resources, the links at this website will take you to information posted on the "CfA" pages.