The Arecibo Observatory telescope, the largest and most sensitive single dish radio telescope in the world, is about to get a good deal more sensitive
As morning mist blankets the Puerto Rico hills, workers prepare to bring the ALFA unit (hanging from a cable at the left) into the Arecibo telescopes Gregorian dome. Tony Acevedo/Arecibo ObservatoryCopyright © Cornell University
Today (Wednesday, April 21) the telescope got a new "eye on the sky" that will turn the huge dish, operated by Cornell University for the National Science Foundation, into the equivalent of a seven-pixel radio camera.
The complex new addition to the Arecibo telescope was hauled 150 meters (492 feet) above the telescopes 1,000-foot-diameter (305 meters) reflector dish starting in the early morning hours. The device, the size of a washing machine, took 30 minutes to reach a platform inside the suspended Gregorian dome, where ultimately it will be cooled and then connected to a fiber optic transmission system leading to ultra-high speed digital signal processors. The new instrument is called ALFA (for Arecibo L-Band Feed Array) and is essentially a camera for making radio pictures of the sky. ALFA will conduct large-scale sky surveys with unprecedented sensitivity, enabling astronomers to collect data about seven times faster than at present, giving the telescope an even broader appeal to astronomers.
David Brand | Cornell News
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