Washington, June 11 : The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico became a part of the global network of telescopes in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa when all of them simultaneously observed the same targets recently, simulating a telescope more than 6,800 miles in diameter.
The telescopes joined by the observatory managed by Cornell's National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center were all members of the Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service (EXPReS) project.
They all marked a live demonstration of their first four-continent, real-time, electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometry (e-VLBI) observations on May 22.
The results were immediately transmitted to Belgium, and shown as part of the 2008 Trans-European Research and Education Networking Association Conference.
According to a report, VLBI uses multiple radio telescopes to simultaneously observe the same region of sky, and thereby creates a giant instrument as big as the separation of the dishes.
It can produce images of cosmic radio sources with up to 100 times better resolution than images from the best optical telescopes, says the report.
The team that operated the Arecibo Observatory said that the demonstration was a major milstone in the telescope's e-VLBI participation.
They revealed that the data-streaming rate to the central signal processor at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands was four times higher than Arecibo had previously achieved.
"These results are very significant for the advance of radio astronomy. It shows not only that telescopes of the future can be developed in worldwide collaboration, but that they can also be operated as truly global instruments," said JIVE director Huib Jan van Langevelde.
Funded by the European Commission, the EXPReS project's objective is to connect up to 16 of the world's most sensitive radio telescopes to the JIVE processor to correlate VLBI data in real time.
This development replaces the traditional VLBI method of shipping data on disk, provides astronomers with observational data in a matter of hours rather than weeks, and thereby allows them to respond rapidly to transient events with follow-up observations.