Observatories combine to create a virtual telescope the size of the Earth

The ALMA observatory located in Chile’s Atacama Desert is to join with observatories from all over the world to create a telescope that can identify objects as small as 10 cm on the surface of the moon.

The technique consists of combining data gathered by “two or more telescopes” to create a virtual telescope with a collection dish equal in size to the geographical distance between them. The project will allow creation of a “virtual telescope the size of the Earth.”

Lars-Ake Nyman is head of scientific operations at ALMA:
“So I mean it’s fantastic that all these countries are working together and they can form the status quo because with this telescope your form a telescope the size of the earth more-or-less when it comes to resolution and images. You can study very distant objects in much detail, and also closer objects, like the centre of our Milky Way, the Black Hole, can almost be resolved with these types of observations.”

ALMA will be included in the Event Horizon Telescope project, a worldwide network of telescopes that will study, not only supermassive black holes, but stars, quasars and many objects that are part of our Universe.

“The astronomers can write observing proposals, and then the proposals are being treated and eventually they become scheduled.”

In August, ALMA linked up with the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, creating a virtual telescope able to observe the 3C 454.3 quasar, one of the brightest radio-objects in the sky, despite the fact that it is located 7.8 billion light years from home.


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