Radio-astronomers form telescope the size of Earth

Jan 13, 2009
Telescopes and networks used for the e-VLBI observation.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Radio telescopes around the world will join forces this week to carry out a unique observation of three quasars, distant galaxies powered by super-massive black holes at their cores.

The nearly continuous 33-hour observation will be conducted on Jan 15-16 as part of a demonstration at the opening event for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) in Paris.

17 telescopes in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America, including several operated from The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, will take part in the mammoth project.

Arpad Szomoru, Head of Technical Operations and R&D at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) noted, "The unique aspect of these observations is that telescopes located all around the globe will be brought together to work in real-time as a single gigantic instrument."

Using an astronomical technique called electronic, real-time Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or e-VLBI, participating telescopes will observe the same object simultaneously. Data from each telescope will be streamed across the globe through high-speed optical networks to a purpose-built supercomputer at JIVE in the Netherlands. This machine acts as the focus of the giant distributed telescope, the largest real-time telescope ever, combining the signals collected from instruments across the world.

“By combining information from such widely separated radio telescopes we can produce incredibly sharp images with up to one hundred times better resolution than those available from the best optical telescopes”, said Simon Garrington, Director of the UK’s MERLIN/VLBI National Facility. “It’s like being able to sit here in Manchester and read a newspaper in London”.

With e-VLBI the ability to send data electronically and combine it in real-time has the additional advantage of providing results to astronomers within hours of conducting an observation, rather than weeks later via the traditional VLBI method of recording data onto disks and shipping it to the correlator.

JIVE Director Huib Jan van Langevelde explained, "With VLBI we can zoom in on the most energetic events in the universe, and the new e-VLBI technique allows us to do this fast enough to catch such events on the time-scale that they occur and respond quickly."

Representatives from participating institutes will attend the IYA 2009 Opening Ceremony in Paris to demonstrate the observation to over 800 attendees, including Nobel Prize winners and aspiring young scientists from over 100 countries. Organizers of the observation have also launched an educational website about e-VLBI at www.expres-eu.org/iya2009 .

Provided by University of Manchester

Explore further: Astronomers find 'cousin' planets around twin stars

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA rocket has six minutes to study solar heating

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —On Sept. 30, 2014, a sounding rocket will fly up into the sky – past Earth's atmosphere that obscures certain wavelengths of light from the sun—for a 15-minute journey to study what heats ...

PanSTARRS K1, the comet that keeps going

10 hours ago

Thank you K1 PanSTARRS for hanging in there! Some comets crumble and fade away. Others linger a few months and move on. But after looping across the night sky for more than a year, this one is nowhere near ...

Swift mission observes mega flares from a mini star

2 hours ago

On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series ...

Image: Looking for comets in a sea of stars

Sep 26, 2014

On a July night this summer, a 5,200-pound balloon gondola hangs from a crane and moves toward the open doors of a building at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md. The telescopes ...

Turning the moon into a cosmic ray detector

Sep 26, 2014

Scientists from the University of Southampton are to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of Ultra-High-Energy (UHE) cosmic rays - the most energetic particles in the ...

Image: A splash of color across the supermoon

Sep 25, 2014

A software engineer from Florida recently captured an image of the day-old supermoon in September that clearly conveys color variations across its surface. Such variations are often imperceptible, but the ...

Recommended for you

The origins of local planetary orbits

8 hours ago

A plutino is an asteroid-sized body that orbits the Sun in a 2:3 resonance with Neptune. They are named after Pluto, which also orbits the Sun twice for every three orbits of Neptune. It is thought that Pluto ...

Wild ducks take flight in open cluster

9 hours ago

The Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile has taken this beautiful image, dappled with blue stars, of one of the most star-rich open clusters currently ...

Image: The Pillars of Creation

10 hours ago

The Pillars of Creation (seen above) is an image of a portion of the Eagle nebula (M16) taken by Hubble Space Telescope in 1995. It soon became one of the most iconic space images of all time. The Eagle nebula ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Thecis
5 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2009
The Netherlands..., isn't that a province somewhere ;-)

Nice initiave. Pity they want to do it only for the Year of Astronomy 2009. These kind of events should happen more often. Why competing with each other when you can join forces (yes...., I know there are lots of reasons....)