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Device that produces and amplifies electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range of the spectrum. The first maser was built in 1951 by Charles H. Townes. Its name is an acronym for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. The wavelength produced by a maser is so constant and reproducible that it can be used to control a clock that will gain or lose no more than a second over hundreds of years. Masers have been used to amplify faint signals returned from radar and communications satellites, and have made it possible to measure faint radio waves emitted by Venus, giving an indication of the planet's temperature. The maser was the principal precursor of the laser.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on maser, visit Britannica.com.