Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

ASTRON Performs First Astronomical Observations With A Focal Plane Array

For a detailed explanation of this image please see text bottom left.
by Staff Writers
Dwingeloo, Holland (SPX) Mar 28, 2008
ASTRON has performed the first successful astronomical observations with a so-called Focal Plane Array (FPA), installed on one of the fourteen dishes of the Westerbork telescope. Focal Plane Arrays are clusters of connected receivers and are the essence of the future APERTIF system ("APERture Tile In Focus").

This transformational FPA technology has been pioneered and brought to maturity by ASTRON, enabling a huge leap forwards for astronomy and the development of radio-sensor systems.

The FPA system allows for a single telescope to observe in multiple directions at the same time, forming a continuous extended field of view which has not been possible before.

Now, for the first time anywhere in the world, meaningful astronomical images have been made with this type of receiver at such a high frequency.

ASTRON is developing the APERTIF receiver system to enable extremely sensitive measurements of the whole sky with an unparalleled accuracy. The traditional horn antenna, located in the focus of each Westerbork telescope, will be replaced by a cluster of connected antennas, the Focal Plane Arrays, thus creating a radio 'camera' in every telescope.

This will enlarge the instantaneous field of view of the telescope by at least ten times during one single observation. Astronomers can now collect much more information in a shorter period of time and from a larger area of the sky.

While enhancing the scientific productivity of existing facilities like the Westerbork telescope, the APERTIF system forms an important step towards a broad application of this innovative and promising FPA technology.

The development of such a receiver system will play an important role in the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, aimed at developing the world's largest radio telescope, a hundred times more sensitive than existing instruments. APERTIF is made possible by a grant from the Investments NWO-Groot program.

Detatiled Caption Description
The picture shows one of the first images made with the prototype of the new APERTIF system. The image on the left shows the neutral hydrogen of the Andromeda nebula, also known as M31, the twin brother of our own Milky Way.

M31 extends several degrees on the sky, which means that it appears almost ten times bigger than the full moon. This is much larger than the field of view of the current Westerbork telescope (the white circle on the picture).

With the Focal Plane Arrays of APERTIF, simultaneously aimed in different directions at the sky, the largest part of M31 can be observed with one single observation of the telescope.

The image on the left is the result of an observation that lasted only 6.7 seconds. Because the APERTIF prototype is only installed in one of the Westerbork dishes, the images are not yet very sharp. However, once most of the fourteen Westerbork dishes are equipped with Focal Plane Arrays, very sharp images can be obtained.

The image on the right also shows the distribution of atomic hydrogen in M31, on the same scale as on the left. This image hass been made a few years ago with the Westerbork telescope, but without the Focal Plane Arrays.

To make this image, 163 separate observations were necessary with all fourteen Westerbork dishes, a process that took many weeks. If every Westerbork dish had a system like APERTIF, the image on the right could be made in a few days with only a few observations.

Related Links
. Space Telescope News and Technology at

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

UA Mirror Lab To Cast Two Mirrors in One For The LSST
Tempe AZ (SPX) Mar 19, 2008
The University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory is about to cast a new kind of giant optic for a unique wide-field survey telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The telescope will be the widest, fastest, deepest eye of the new digital age. Mirror Lab workers will begin loading 51,900 pounds of glass into the mirror mold early today.

  • European Space Truck Jules Verne In Parking Orbit
  • New Purdue Facility Aims To Improve NASA Moon Rocket Engine
  • Space X Falcon 9 Facing More Delays As Shuttle Replacement Looms
  • SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing Of Falcon 1 Merlin Regeneratively Cooled Engine

  • German military satellite launched by Russia: report
  • Russian Rockot Launch Vehicle To Orbit European GOCE Satellite
  • Cape Canaveral Airmen Launch Delta II Rocket
  • ProStar GPS Guides Players At Arizona Golf Resort

  • Shuttle Endeavour returns after record-setting mission to ISS
  • Endeavour Crew Prepares For Landing
  • Shuttle Endeavour's landing delayed at Cape Canaveral
  • US shuttle Endeavour heads home after record mission

  • Japan celebrates Shuttle Endeavour mission
  • Astronauts Successfully Complete Fifth Spacewalk
  • ISS astronauts take rest day after setting up giant robot
  • Dextre Flexes It's Muscles And Gets Ready To Work On The ISS

  • Odyssey Moon Announces Commercial Launch Services Agreement
  • XCOR Aerospace Suborbital Vehicle To Fly Within Two Years
  • NASA discusses space exploration benefits
  • India Seeks Russia's Help In Space Pilot Training

  • China's space development can pose military threat: Japan
  • Cassini Tastes Organic Material At Saturn's Geyser Moon
  • China Approves Second-Phase Lunar Probe Program
  • Brazil To Deepen Space Cooperation With China

  • High-Schoolers Go Into Overdrive At FIRST Robotics Competition
  • In Japan, robot babysitter always ready to play
  • iRobot Receives Award For DARPA LANdroids Program
  • Coming soon to Japan: remote control with a wink

  • Mars Robotic Rover Opportunity Finds More Evidence Of Ancient Water
  • Spirit Begins Preparing For Another Winter Hibernation
  • Wataire's Water-From-Air Units Get Thumbs Up In Mars Mission Simulation
  • Multi-Tasking Rover Helps Pave The Way For Next Mars Mission

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright Space.TV Corporation. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space.TV Corp on any Web page published or hosted by Space.TV Corp. Privacy Statement