Friday, September 7, 2007

Networks Create 'Instant World Telescope'

For the first time, a CSIRO radio telescope has been linked to others in China and Europe in real-time, demonstrating the power of high-speed global networks and effectively creating a telescope almost as big as the Earth.

A CSIRO telescope near Coonabarabran NSW was recently used simultaneously with one near Shanghai, China, and five in Europe to observe a distant galaxy called 3C273.

Data from the telescopes was streamed around the world at a rate of 256 Mb per second to a research centre in Europe, where it was processed with a special-purpose digital processor.

The results were then transmitted to Xi’an, China, where they were watched live by experts in advanced networking at the APAN (Asia-Pacific Advanced Network) Meeting.

The more widely separated the telescopes, the more finely detailed the observations can be. The diameter of the Earth is 12 750 km and the two most widely separated telescopes in our experiment were 12 304 km apart, in a straight line.