Friday, 22 Jul, 2011 Science
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Russia to Set Up World's Largest Telescope

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This Monday in Kazakhstan, Russian Federation launched its latest spacecraft called RadioAstron. The spacecraft is not that large, featuring a 10-meter (33-foot) antenna and measuring 300 meters (984 feet) across.

However, after reaching the orbit, the signal from RadioAstron will join forces with the signals from ground-bases telescopes worldwide, thus creating the world's largest virtual telescope that will be equivalent to a single radio telescope measuring more than 350,000 kilometers (217,480 miles) across.

Researchers will use a process called interferometry, which involves the combination of two or more telescopes found in different locations to get a single picture that would generate a resolution higher than a single telescope.

Radio telescopes have been launched into space before, the RadioAstron has the goal of orbiting the Earth at 10,000 to 390,000 kilometers away from it, working together with telescopes in West Virginia, Germany and Puerto Rico. It will be able to capture detailed images at 10,000 times the resolution of those produced by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientist plan to use the telescope to observe a huge black hole located in the middle of a nearby galaxy, M87.

Despite the fact that the spacecraft has already been launched, researchers will still need to wait several months until RadioAstron reaches the starting point of its orbit. Then it will go through a check-out stage with researchers at Russia's Lebedev Physical Institute Astro Space Center, reports NewScientist.

According to the calculations made, the telescope will send data at a speed of 144 megabits per second. Currently there is just one 22-meter (72-foot) dish established in Moscow that will receive the data, which means that a lot of information will simply be lost. But it is hoped that during the 5-year mission of the telescope there will be more receiving stations built.

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