Monday, 20 April 2009

UK 'superscope' gets first signals from space

A super-powerful new radio telescope network - which will allow astronomers to carry out three years worth of observations in a single day - has received its first signals from space at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory.

Engineers and astronomers at the famous Cheshire site have seen 'first light' with e-MERLIN, successfully processing signals from two of the telescopes in the seven-telescope network.

e-MERLIN is designed to make detailed radio images of stars and galaxies using seven telescopes spread up to 217 km apart across the UK.The radio signals collected by the telescopes are brought back to Jodrell Bank using 600 km of high-speed optical fibre cables laid by Fujitsu UK and operated by Global Crossing.

Professor Simon Garrington, Director of e-MERLIN, said:

"The new optical fibre network, together with new electronics at each telescope and a powerful new 'correlator' which combines the signals at Jodrell Bank, will make the telescope one of the most powerful of its type in the world.

"The e-MERLIN fibre network will carry as much data as the rest of the UK Internet combined, enabling astronomers to see in a single day what would have previously taken us three years of observations."

e-MERLIN is the UK's national facility for radio astronomy. Its combination of widely separated telescopes provides astronomers with a powerful "zoom lens" with which they can study details of astronomical events out towards the edge of the observable universe.

Once fully functional in early 2010, e-MERLIN's unique combination of sharpness of view and sensitivity will allow astronomers to address key questions relating to the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets.

For more information visit the Jodrell Bank website

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