The Cosmic Golf Ball

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Checking Dimples on the Cosmic Golf Ball

Aldo Apponi, project scientist for the Kitt Peak 12-Meter Telescope, uses the telescope along with other scientists to obtain high-resolution radio images of objects in distance regions of our galaxy and the universe. David Harvey photo

Imagine what you could discover with a telescope the size of planet Earth. UA radio astronomers no longer have to imagine — they’re part of a grand experiment to link radio telescopes on several continents into a virtual telescope capable of detecting things 3,000 times smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope can see.

The linkage allows astronomers to view the universe at the shortest-ever (2 millimeter) radio wavelength.

“The resolution achieved by this telescope is the equivalent of sitting in New York and being able to see the dimples on a golf ball in Los Angeles,” says one astronomer on the team.

The international collaboration involves two telescopes in Arizona — the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham and the Kitt Peak 12-Meter Telescope — and telescopes in Spain, Finland, and Chile.

The telescope has picked up radio signals from galaxies more than 3 billion light years away. Plans are to direct the powerful new telescope at the core of the Milky Way Galaxy to detect structures close to our galaxy’s suspected black hole.

Originally Published in the Arizona Alumnus Magazine Winter 2002

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Last updated: 11/08/11.