Age of the AR­RAY

A thou­sand tele­scopes are bet­ter than one

Sky at Night Magazine - - SPACE IN 2017 -

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

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