Telescopes from the Ground Up

Teamwork

During an observation, the dishes must be carefully aimed at the radio source. Each dish independently records the radio signals it receives from the source. The precise time the signal arrives is also recorded. The computer combines all the signals that arrived at the same time to create an image of what the array “sees.”

The sources of the radio waves range from solar flares to the gas between stars. Even planets emit radio waves, and radio telescopes can be used to measure their surface temperature.

Assorted sizes

While the VLA may be big, it is not the biggest array. Radio astronomers need a variety of array sizes to study the sky at different resolutions. The Very Large Baseline Interferometer is formed from individual radio telescopes scattered around the globe, in places like Germany, the United States, Sweden, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Italy. This arrangement creates a radio telescope about the size of the Earth for even greater resolution.

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Radio Telescopes