Documenting the Coming Singularity

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grandma, what big eyes you have - Telescope the size of Earth - January 13 2009

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.

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