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Title: Space Radio Astronomy in the next 1000001 (binary) years
Authors: L.I. Gurvits

Radio astronomy and active exploration of space are peers: both began by efforts of enthusiasts in the 1930s and got a major technological boost in the 1940s-50s. Thus, for the sake of a brief review at this very special conference, it is fair to estimate the present age of these human endeavours as 1000001 (binary) years. These years saw a lot of challenging and fruitful concerted efforts by radio astronomers and space explorers. Among the high points one can mention several highly successful space-borne CMB observatories, three orbital VLBI missions, the first examples of radio observations at spectral windows hitherto closed for Earth-based observers and many yet to be implemented initiatives which are at various stages of their paths toward launch-pads of all major world space agencies. In this review I will give a bird-eye picture of the past achievements of space-oriented radio astronomy and zoom into several projects and ideas that will further push the presence of radio astronomy into the space agenda of mankind over the next 1000001 (binary) years. In tune with the main themes of this conference, an emphasis will be made on space frontiers of VLBI and the SKA.

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The birth of a telescope 30 times larger than Earth

The technique of very long baseline interferometry, which has already set a number of world records in astronomy, now enters an entirely new era signalled by a successful detection of interferometric signals ("fringes") made in observations performed with the 10-meter space-borne antenna Spektr-R of the RadioAstron project, three 32-meter antennas of the Russian QUASAR Network, the Ukrainian 70-meter antenna in Evpatoria, and the German 100-meter radio telescope in Effelsberg. The detection was made on 15 November 2011, with observations performed at a wavelength of 18 centimetres and targeting bright and extremely compact radio emission from the distant quasar 0212+735.
In order to perform these observations, data from the space antenna of RadioAstron were recorded on-board and sent to the satellite tracking antenna in Puschino, Russia. These data have been subsequently combined with recordings made at ground-based radio telescopes participating in RadioAstron observations. This is done at a special RadioAstron correlator facility in Moscow. The RadioAstron correlator performs searches for correlations (or interferometric fringes) between the signals recorded at two or more antennas. Using these correlations, images of distant cosmic objects can be reconstructed at a resolution that would have been achieved with a telescope as large as the largest distance between the antennas participating in observations.
The satellite was about 100,000 km away from Earth during the observations of the quasar 0212+735. Planned observations with Spectr-R will extend out to 360,000 kilometres from the Earth, thus creating a telescope which is effectively 30 times larger than the size of our planet. This kind of telescope will achieve a resolution as fine as 1/100,000 of a second of arc. This resolution is sufficient for measuring the size of a one cent coin on the surface of Moon and reaches within a factor of two of the scale of the event horizon in the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy.

Max Planck Institute 



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Students build radio telescope

Several months ago a group of students were pitched an idea by their Physics teacher Gregory Grist during a period in time where they were learning about radio waves.
The idea being to build a radio telescope and use it to collect data from Jupiter. What first started as an honours program requirement later turned into an extensive data gathering research project.
This kind of experiment is common in schools across the country in both the college and high school level, but to the best knowledge of the students and instructor, it had not been done at Skyline, which made for a memorable experience.

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Radio astronomy's centre of gravity shifts west
The signal is clear: radio astronomy is exerting a powerful, attractive force in the west.

"Historically, the enormous strength in radio astronomy within Australia has been contained within CSIRO and the University of Sydney, on the east coast" - Peter Quinn, an expert on dark matter.

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VLBI - the sharpest views in radio astronomy
Around the planet, astronomers have huge parabolic dishes and large arrays of antennas turned towards the skies radio telescopes.
The European hub for what is called Very Long Baseline Interferometry is situated in Dwingeloo in the Netherlands. Its there, at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe JIVE -that are processed the signals of radio telescopes.


The script (PDF)

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A new astronomical facility for Peru: transforming a 32m-antenna into a radio telescope

There are some big antennae around that are not used anymore, because communication has been replaced by other means. Making telescopes out of them requires expertise which not necessarily available. For this project in Peru, they collaborated with Japanese astronomers.

The transformation of this satellite communication antenna shall start radio astronomy in Peru, create radio astronomers by gathering knowledge and of course promote international collaborations. The antenna is good enough to go up to 2.2 GHz and the site is high up, remote and has good conditions. The location on the globe also makes it interesting for Very Long Baseline Interferometry. They have a working receiver and are well underway.

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