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World's Largest Virtual Optical Telescope Created 57

erice writes "Astronomers in Chile linked four telescopes together to form a single virtual mirror 130 meters in diameter. Previous efforts had linked two telescopes but this is the first time that all four had been linked. 'The process that links separate telescopes together is known as interferometry. In this mode, the VLT becomes the biggest ground-based optical telescope on earth. Besides creating a gigantic virtual mirror, interferometry also greatly improves the telescope's spatial resolution and zooming capabilities.'"
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World's Largest Virtual Optical Telescope Created

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  • by wierdling ( 609715 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:58AM (#38925289) Homepage
    If you meet their requirements, you can register and download data from []
  • by Jesse_vd ( 821123 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:02AM (#38925303)

    The coolest thing I learned about the VLT is that it uses a laser to excite sodium particles 90km up in the atmosphere which creates a very faint 'star' at a very well-known distance. This reference point is used to make tiny adjustments to the mirrors to correct for atmospheric turbulence. These telescopes are not continents apart, they are all at the Paranal observatory in Chile. The light from each telescope is routed underground through equal-length tunnels to a central point to make one GIANT image. From wikipedia, "when all the telescopes are combined, the facility can achieve an angular resolution of about 0.001 arc-second. This is equivalent to roughly two metres at the distance of the Moon."

  • Ehhh, not exactly. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shag ( 3737 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:06AM (#38925317)

    It's not the equivalent of a 130-meter diameter mirror; it's the equivalent of that mirror with all but four 8.2-meter diameter pieces of it blacked out. Yes, you can get a sharper image using interferometry, but your total light-gathering area is 211 square meters, not 13,273 square meters. That's going to affect exposure times. But still, it's cool. :)

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