Who hasn’t seen Arecibo in Puerto Rico, the massive radio telescope suspended on the rim of a volcano over a large limestone sinkhole. It shined in a James Bond movie (Golden Eye) and my all time favorite movie “Contact“. It also provides the data for SETI@home, piggybacking their antenna off center of the main focal point. The 1964 build telescope is the biggest radio telescope in the world with it’s 305 meters (1000 feet) dish. Or is it? Well, that depends on how you look at it. My country has a reputation to keep when it’s about radio astronomy. In 1956 a 25 meter (82 feet) dish was build, at that moment the largest in the world, and in 1970 a whole new technology was put into practice, linking 14 relatively small dishes to form a virtual dish three kilometers in diameter. It is still a prime system in its kind. But now, look at this picture.
Massively unimpressive huh? Some kitchen-style electronics in a piece of rain pipe and some wires. Now imagine 25 15.000 of them, scattered in a spiraling pattern in about 100 77 locations over an area with a diameter of 350 kilometers (217 miles). Everything will be linked by fiber optics and massive computing power will synthesize the signals to the desired imagery. Now that will be a nice radio telescope. It’s resolution will be a 100 times better than current systems. Last week, the first 96 were put in operation and the first images were collected.