This article may be too technical for most readers to understand.(June 2012)
Time smearing or time-average smearing is the degradation of the reconstructed image of a celestial body observed by a ground-based interferometer that occurs because of the duration of the observation. Unlike single telescopes or cameras that can compensate for the Earth's rotation in real time using a dedicated mount, the different telescopes of the interferometer are at fixed positions on the Earth. As a result, maps obtained with interferometers feature elongated orthoradial features similar to those of night sky photographs taken with a fixed tripod, unless they use short enough integration times.
The smearing is a problem for long integration times or very separated telescopes. Mostly an issue in radioastronomy, it severely limits the usable field of view of observations in very long baseline interferometry.
A radio telescope is a specialized antenna and radio receiver used to detect radio waves from astronomical radio sources in the sky. Radio telescopes are the main observing instrument used in radio astronomy, which studies the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by astronomical objects, just as optical telescopes are the main observing instrument used in traditional optical astronomy which studies the light wave portion of the spectrum coming from astronomical objects. Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can be used in the daytime as well as at night.
Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The first detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was in 1933, when Karl Jansky at Bell Telephone Laboratories reported radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of different sources of radio emission. These include stars and galaxies, as well as entirely new classes of objects, such as radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, and masers. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, regarded as evidence for the Big Bang theory, was made through radio astronomy.
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is a facility operated by the European Southern Observatory, located on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It consists of four individual telescopes, each equipped with a primary mirror that measures 8.2 meters in diameter. These optical telescopes, named Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, and Yepun, are generally used separately but can be combined to achieve a very high angular resolution. The VLT array is also complemented by four movable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) with 1.8-meter apertures.
Interferometry is a technique which uses the interference of superimposed waves to extract information. Interferometry typically uses electromagnetic waves and is an important investigative technique in the fields of astronomy, fiber optics, engineering metrology, optical metrology, oceanography, seismology, spectroscopy, quantum mechanics, nuclear and particle physics, plasma physics, biomolecular interactions, surface profiling, microfluidics, mechanical stress/strain measurement, velocimetry, optometry, and making holograms.
The Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 5,710-foot (1,740-meter) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles.
Very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) is a type of astronomical interferometry used in radio astronomy. In VLBI a signal from an astronomical radio source, such as a quasar, is collected at multiple radio telescopes on Earth or in space. The distance between the radio telescopes is then calculated using the time difference between the arrivals of the radio signal at different telescopes. This allows observations of an object that are made simultaneously by many radio telescopes to be combined, emulating a telescope with a size equal to the maximum separation between the telescopes.
Speckle imaging comprises a range of high-resolution astronomical imaging techniques based on the analysis of large numbers of short exposures that freeze the variation of atmospheric turbulence. They can be divided into the shift-and-add method and the speckle interferometry methods. These techniques can dramatically increase the resolution of ground-based telescopes, but are limited to bright targets.
Observational astronomy is a division of astronomy that is concerned with recording data about the observable universe, in contrast with theoretical astronomy, which is mainly concerned with calculating the measurable implications of physical models. It is the practice and study of observing celestial objects with the use of telescopes and other astronomical instruments.
The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry. The longest baseline available in this interferometer is about 8,611 kilometers (5,351 mi).
Aperture synthesis or synthesis imaging is a type of interferometry that mixes signals from a collection of telescopes to produce images having the same angular resolution as an instrument the size of the entire collection. At each separation and orientation, the lobe-pattern of the interferometer produces an output which is one component of the Fourier transform of the spatial distribution of the brightness of the observed object. The image of the source is produced from these measurements. Astronomical interferometers are commonly used for high-resolution optical, infrared, submillimetre and radio astronomy observations. For example, the Event Horizon Telescope project derived the first image of a black hole using aperture synthesis.
The Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) is an American astronomical interferometer, with the world's largest baselines, operated by the Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station (NOFS) in collaboration with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and Lowell Observatory. The NPOI primarily produces space imagery and astrometry, the latter a major component required for the safe position and navigation of all manner of vehicles for the DoD. The facility is located at Lowell's Anderson Mesa Station on Anderson Mesa about 25 kilometers (16 mi) southeast of Flagstaff, Arizona (US). Until November 2011, the facility was known as the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer (NPOI). Subsequently, the instrument was temporarily renamed the Navy Optical Interferometer, and now permanently, the Kenneth J. Johnston Navy Precision Optical Interferometer (NPOI) – reflecting both the operational maturity of the facility, and paying tribute to its principal driver and retired founder, Kenneth J. Johnston.
The One-Mile Telescope at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO), Cambridge, UK is an array of radio telescopes designed to perform aperture synthesis interferometry.
The Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) is an aperture synthesis interferometer built on the site of the former World War II Nazi detention and transit camp Westerbork, north of the village of Westerbork, Midden-Drenthe, in the northeastern Netherlands.
An astronomical interferometer or telescope array is a set of separate telescopes, mirror segments, or radio telescope antennas that work together as a single telescope to provide higher resolution images of astronomical objects such as stars, nebulas and galaxies by means of interferometry. The advantage of this technique is that it can theoretically produce images with the angular resolution of a huge telescope with an aperture equal to the separation, called baseline, between the component telescopes. The main drawback is that it does not collect as much light as the complete instrument's mirror. Thus it is mainly useful for fine resolution of more luminous astronomical objects, such as close binary stars. Another drawback is that the maximum angular size of a detectable emission source is limited by the minimum gap between detectors in the collector array.
The Long Michelson Interferometer was a radio telescope interferometer built by Martin Ryle and co-workers in the late 1940s beside a rifle range to the west of Cambridge, England. The interferometer consisted of 2 fixed elements 440m apart to survey the sky using Earth rotation. It produced the Preliminary survey of the radio stars in the Northern Hemisphere at 45 MHz - 214 MHz. The telescope was operated by the Radio Astronomy Group of Cambridge University.
In optical astronomy, interferometry is used to combine signals from two or more telescopes to obtain measurements with higher resolution than could be obtained with either telescopes individually. This technique is the basis for astronomical interferometer arrays, which can make measurements of very small astronomical objects if the telescopes are spread out over a wide area. If a large number of telescopes are used a picture can be produced which has resolution similar to a single telescope with the diameter of the combined spread of telescopes. These include radio telescope arrays such as VLA, VLBI, SMA, astronomical optical interferometer arrays such as COAST, NPOI and IOTA, resulting in the highest resolution optical images ever achieved in astronomy. The VLT Interferometer is expected to produce its first images using aperture synthesis soon, followed by other interferometers such as the CHARA array and the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer which may consist of up to 10 optical telescopes. If outrigger telescopes are built at the Keck Interferometer, it will also become capable of interferometric imaging.
The Green Bank Interferometer (GBI) is a former radio astronomy telescope located at Green Bank, West Virginia (US) and operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). It included three on-site radio telescopes of 85-foot (26m) diameter, designated 85-1, 85-3, and 85-2 and a portable telescope.
Sea interferometry, also known as sea-cliff interferometry, is a form of radio astronomy that uses radio waves reflected off the sea to produce an interference pattern. It is the radio wave analogue to Lloyd's mirror. The technique was invented and exploited in Australia between 1945 and 1948.
Bandwidth smearing is a chromatic aberration of the reconstructed image of a celestial body observed by an astronomical interferometer that occurs because of the frequency bandwidth. In Fourier terms, the different frequencies of the bandwidth probe different spatial frequencies which results in a reconstruct map containing elongated radial features.