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Massive Radio Telescope Starts Observing the Skies 44

New submitter cyachallenge writes with this excerpt from New Scientist: "RadioAstron, effectively the largest radio telescope ever built, is up and running. The telescope's main component, a 10-metre radio dish aboard the spacecraft Spectr-R, launched in July to an oblong orbit that extends between 10,000 and more than 300,000 kilometres from Earth. By coordinating observations with radio telescopes on Earth in a technique called interferometry, the telescope can make observations as sharp as a single dish spanning the entire distance between the two farthest dishes. When Spectr-R is at its farthest from Earth, the system acts like one enormous telescope about 30 times as wide as our planet, boasting about 10,000 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope."
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Massive Radio Telescope Starts Observing the Skies

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  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @05:13AM (#38323998)

    it's too big to fail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @05:46AM (#38324136)

    .. it still "only" has 10m of aperture (+ the aperture from radio telescopes on Earth) so it will have a hard time detecting faint objects near its maximum resolution. It will be excellent at detecting small details of bright objects though.

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:19AM (#38324256) Journal

    Unlike the Chinese, that seem to do a lot of "me, too" stuff (which is very impressive, of course), the Russians do work that is nicely complementing the US, European (ESA) and Japanese efforts. The Spektr-R (and RadioAstron) is something novel and unique, and will provide insights in the astrophysics and astronomy beyond the Milky Way with high angular resolution.

    Another example is ill-fated Phobos Grunt. It would have been another interesting and unique experiment.

  • Their Website (Score:5, Informative)

    by bobby1234 ( 860820 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:41AM (#38324320)
  • Seriously, 10m is a lot smaller than the state of the art in regular comm-sats. TerreStar-1 [] has an 18m dish. Yes, it's large but massive isn't exactly the right expression.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But what is the curvature error of the TerreStar-1 dish? And of the RadioAstron? You have to compare _that_, not just dish diameter, to understand why they did not/could not make it bigger... Besides, a larger dish means more orbital interference from solar wind, etc.

    • The radio telescope and the communication satellite has wildly different design goals and specs. You can't get much by just comparing the size.

  • Despite the shortcomings (perceived and real) that many will discuss regarding this particular telescope, it is still a very good thing that the U.S. and other countries continue to spend the money to develop, build, and implement new 'scopes. Considering how tight money is (worldwide) it can't be easy to find the funding for these projects.
  • Two 10 m dishes 100 km apart do not have the same resolution as a 100 km dish. You get diffraction effects appropriate to 10 m dishes, which messes up the "image" something awful. You can do interferometry equivalent to the 100 km dish (ignoring undersampling errors) and other such things, but pretending they're the same is just sloppy.