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How Are Radio Telescope Images Produced and Why Does This Require a Supercomputer?

15 Jul 2016, 20:27 UTC
How Are Radio Telescope Images Produced and Why Does This Require a Supercomputer?
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Question: I’m curious about the computation aspect of radio astronomy. How do you transform radio signals over some period of time and from 27 dishes into a 2 dimensional image? Why does this require a supercomputer? — Bill
Answer: Let me try to paraphrase the description of how a radio interferometer works from NRAO’s description of this technique. A collection of two or more radio telescopes can collect the information necessary to create a two-dimensional image of a radio source by first observing the same radio source all at the same time. If we also then know (or measure) the relative distances between each of the antennas in our array to a very high level of accuracy, then we can calculate what the arrival time of the radio waves from a radio source will be at each antenna in our telescope array. Note that these arrival times will be slightly different dependent upon the position of the radio source in the sky. This difference is a time delay in the phase of the radio wave coming from the radio source. When we combine these two offset waves, they will not overlap perfectly due to their phase shift, creating what are ...

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