To continue our series with Artie, everyone’s favorite aardvark, here is the little scamp exploring the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT).
On the last day of Nova school we spent the afternoon going to see the Westerbork radio telescopes, which is about 20 kilometers from ASTRON. I passed my time on the bus ride making friends with all the astronomers.
After a long drive through the rain we made it- hooray! The telescopes looked awfully impressive, as all 14 of them were pointed in the same direction tracking a source in the sky.
Here is one of the telescopes up close. The Westerbork telescopes are interesting because they have an equatorial mount, meaning one axis is parallel to the Earth’s rotation, and most radio telescopes have azimuthal mounts. This means the Westerbork telescopes can track something in the sky by moving only one axis, but most radio telescopes require two!
After the telescopes detect a radio signal all that information comes here to the correlator, where all the signals are put together so the astronomers can analyze what they see. There were lots of wires running everywhere- it looks awfully complicated to run a radio telescope!
I also got to see a test of the next generation technology for radio telescopes called EMBRACE, which looked like a giant field of spikes if you ask me. Basically over the next decade or so radio astronomers are hoping to build the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) which will do exactly what the name sounds like, put an array over an entire square kilometer. Wow! Something very, very big like that also needs parts that aren’t too expensive, so they’re hoping to use EMBRACE to show how this telescope of the future will work exactly.
I was also excited to learn that next year they will announce the location of the Square Kilometer Array, either in western Australia or South Africa. I’m crossing my paws for South Africa to be picked of course!
After that it was time for one last paparazzi shoot, with my friend Oscar’s help-
And after all that excitement I was tired, and snuggled into a pouch in Yvette’s poncho-Hmmm, these kangaroo-style pouches are quite comfy. Perhaps I won’t mind if they build the SKA in Australia after all!