A new detector at the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) allows for a much wider view of the sky in the radio spectrum. In this image, the two pulsars are separated by over 3.5 degrees of arc in the sky. Image Credit: ASTRON
To aid in the digestion of a new era in radio astronomy, a new technique for improving the is unfolding at the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) in the Netherlands. By adding a plate of detectors to the focal plane of just one of the 14 radio antennas at the WSRT, astronomers at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) have been able to image two pulsars separated by over 3.5 degrees of arc, which is about 7 times the size of the full Moon as seen from Earth.
The new project – called Apertif – uses an array of detectors in the focal plane of the radio telescope. This ‘phased array feed’ – made of 121 separate detectors – increases the field of view of the radio telescope by over 30 times. In doing so, astronomers are able to see a larger portion of the sky in the radio spectrum. Why is this important? Well, in keeping with our food course analogy, imagine trying to eat a bowl of soup with a thimble – you can only get a small portion of the soup into your mouth at a time. Then imagine trying to eat it with a ladle. (…) Read the rest of An Apertif to the Next Radio Astronomy Entrée (930 words)
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