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During the last few decades, the great sensitivity of the Arecibo radio telescope has allowed radio astronomers to study the weak radio signals of objects such as quasars, galaxies, pulsars, and interstellar clouds. Radio signals from distant sources bring knowledge about the evolution of the universe.

Today, cosmologists believe that 13.7 billion years ago, there was nothing. No universe—no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no light, no space, and no time, nothing at all. Suddenly, for reasons that are still not understood, an astronomical explosion took place, and space and time began.
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While molecules are usually thought of as the material in laboratories with which chemists work, the last three decades have revealed that the Milky Way, as well as other galaxies in the universe, have a significant component of molecular material in the space between their stars. Most important, it is from very cold, dense interstellar clouds that new stars and solar systems, such as our own, are formed.

Molecules play a key role in the structure and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets. Yet, it was a great surprise to discover that molecules exist in the very harsh environment of interstellar space. How do these fragile groups of atoms survive the flux of high-energy particles and the intense ultraviolet radiation from stars?
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Consider ordinary matter. Its atoms are mostly empty space containing electrons orbiting in fuzzy, quantum fashion around tiny nuclei of protons and neutrons. For a star that becomes a neutron star, the tug of war between gravity and gas pressure that defines the Sturm und Drang of the star's life is finalized when gravity wins temporarily, as the core of the star implodes. As it does so, the electrons and protons are squeezed together and fused into neutrons, releasing neutrinos that explode the outer layers of the star. Meanwhile, the neutrons provide a new pressure that halts the collapse. The resulting density is accordingly similar to that in a nucleus of an atom, except that it occurs in an object about the size of Ithaca, New York.
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It is 3:00 A.M. Lights are on in a windowless room adorned with toy bats, galaxy mobiles, and a computer screen that refreshes itself every second with a new display. It monitors incoming data from the Arecibo telescope, 1,500 miles away. A "talk" window allows an electronic conversation with the telescope operator in the control room at the Arecibo Observatory; a phone sits prominently on the desk beside the screen, just in case the Internet goes on the blink. A member of the Cornell EGG (ExtraGalactic Group) is spending another night in Cornell's "Camuy Cave"—in the Space Sciences Building—observing, remotely, with the Arecibo telescope, on a hunt for starless galaxies." Starless galaxies? Aren't galaxies supposed to be conglomerates of billions of stars?" one might ask.
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