Age of the ARRAY
A thousand telescopes are better than one
As we look deeper into the Universe, astronomers are building bigger telescopes using dozens, hundreds or even thousands of dishes working together as one. And the benefits of these spread out scopes are beginning to show.
In April, eight independent telescopes joined together to create the Event Horizon Telescope. This planet-spanning instrument was aimed at the heart of the Milky Way, with the goal of imaging the black hole at its centre. But they still don’t know if the attempt was a success. Processing the image was delayed until September, when the South Pole Telescope thawed out enough for the hard drives to be flown to the data centre at MIT.
One participating telescope was the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), and this was just a single example of the many great discoveries made with the array this year. In the past 12
months, its gaze has spanned the cosmos: from our Solar System – where it found vinyl cyanide, which could form cell-like membranes, on Titan – to the Universe’s most distant reaches, observing oxygen in gas clouds as far back as 13 billion years ago.
The Event Horizon Telescope is a network of telescopes and arrays located across the globe