East Asian astronomers build world’s largest radio telescope network

New Delhi, Feb 2: A team of astronomers from East Asia is building the world's largest radio telescope network, which will look deep into the galaxies and black holes more accurately and determine the orbits of lunar probes.

The array, called the East Asia Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) consortium, consists of 19 radio telescopes from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) that cover an area with a diameter of 6,000 kilometers from northern Japan's Hokkaido to western China's Kunming and Urumqi.

According to Shen Zhiqiang, secretary general of the East Asia VLBI consortium committee, "The actual number of telescopes included could change as the countries involved are building new ones - like the 65-meter-diameter radio telescope being built in Shanghai."

"In addition, Chinese astronomers have made huge success in applying VLBI technology to determine the orbit of Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe," he added.

Shen's research team also used VLBI to find the most convincing proof so far that there is a super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

The VLBI technology is widely used in radio astronomy. It combines the observations simultaneously made by several telescopes to expand the diameter and increase magnification.

According to Shen, the consortium has carried out experimental observations and frequent academic exchanges since the idea came into being in 2003.

One main task of the consortium is to improve the three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy obtained by Japan's VERA (VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry), according to the project's development plan.

Hideyuki Kobayashi, director of Japan's Mizusawa VERA Observatory, earlier said that the consortium would help astronomers obtain high quality data on galactic structures.

Full-scale observations of the consortium are scheduled to start in 2010, which will connect at least 12 Japanese and four Chinese stations, in addition to three Korean ones that are under construction. (ANI)