Gravitational Lenses Could Allow a Galaxy-Wide Internet

As Carl Sagan once said, “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.” And our first emissaries to the stars will be robotic probes. These interstellar probes will be largely autonomous, but we will want to communicate with them. At the very least we will want them to phone home and tell us what they’ve discovered. The stars are distant, so the probes will need to make a very long-distance call.

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Work Begins on Cleaning up Arecibo. The job Could Cost $50 Million

The collapse of Arecibo’s radio telescope was a devastating blow to the radio astronomy community.  On December 1st, the suspended instrument platform came crashing down, destroying a large part of the receiver dish and the towers supporting the platform, as well as causing minor damage to some outlying buildings.  Now the National Science Foundation (NSF), the government agency responsible for operating Arecibo is starting to pick up the pieces to figure out what’s next for the site, as they detailed in a brief report to Congress recently.

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A map of 25,000 Supermassive Black Holes Across the Universe

The Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) is a different kind of radio telescope. Although radio light has the longest wavelengths and lowest frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, much of radio astronomy has focused on the higher frequency end. Observatories such as ALMA study radio light at frequencies of hundreds of Gigahertz, and the VLA studies the fifty Gigahertz range, LOFAR captures radio signals below 250 Megahertz, which is in the range of the lowest radio frequencies that can be seen from Earth.

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A New Radar Instrument Will Try To Fill the Void Left By Arecibo

Observational astronomy is dependent on its data, and therefore also dependent on the instruments that collect that data.  So when one of those instruments fails it is a blow to the profession as a whole.  The collapse of the Arecibo Telescope last year after it was damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 permanently deprived the radio astronomy world of one of its primary observational tools. Now a team at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) hopes to upgrade an existing telescope at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia to replace the failed Puerto Rican one and provide even more precise images of near Earth objects in the radio spectrum.

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Radio Emissions Have Been Detected from an Exoplanet

Invisible Glow

Finding planets out in the Universe is pretty hard. I say this despite the fact that two planets in Earth’s skies are aligning tomorrow to form one of the brightest objects seen in hundreds of years. But while the brilliant Jupiter and Saturn are always visible to the naked eye, Neptune wasn’t directly observed until 1846 despite being in our own solar system. We didn’t start discovering planets outside the solar system until 150 years after Neptune. Like Neptune, we find them (though indirectly), through visible light. However an international team of researchers may have just made the first detection of an exoplanet through radio emissions created by the planet’s aurora.

A simulation of Gas giant “Hot Jupiter” Tau Boötis Ab which orbits its parent star at one seventh the distance Mercury orbits our Sun. It’s atmosphere and the corona of its star are possibly touching eachother. – c SpaceEngine Pro by Author
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Australian Radio Telescopes Just Completed a map of the Universe

Although radio astronomy has been around since the 1930s, it is only in recent years that astronomers have been able to make high-resolution maps of the radio sky. Sky maps are difficult for radio telescopes because radio antennas need to be focused on an extremely small patch of sky to capture images in high resolution. But with modern antennas and computer processing, we can now scan the sky quickly enough to map the heavens in a reasonable amount of time.

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Arecibo’s Damage is so Serious and Dangerous, They’re Just Going to Scrap the Observatory Entirely

This past summer, the Arecibo Observatory suffered major damage when an auxiliary cable that supports the platform above the telescope broke and struck the reflector dish. Immediately thereafter, technicians with the observatory and the University of Central Florida (UCF) began working to stabilize the structure and assess the damage. Unfortunately, about two weeks ago (on Nov. 6th), a second cable broke causing even more damage.

Following a thorough review, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the observatory cannot be stabilized without risking the lives of construction workers and staff at the facility. As such, after 57 years of faithful service and countless contributions to multiple fields of astronomy, the NSF has decided to commence plans for decommissioning the Arecibo Observatory.

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A Second Cable has Failed at Arecibo, Causing Even More Damage to the Radio Observatory

Another main cable that supports the Arecibo Observatory broke last week, falling onto the reflector dish and causing more damage. This is the second time a cable has snapped on the iconic radio observatory in just three months.

The new damage is an unfortunate and devastating setback for the observatory, just as repairs from the first accident were about to begin.

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Australia’s Parkes Telescope Just Got a New Name: Murriyang, Which Means “Skyworld”

Australia’s iconic 64-meter Parkes radio telescope has been given a new traditional name to recognize the Wiradjuri, who own the land on which the telescope sits. The Wiradjuri are some of Australia’s First People who have occupied the continent and its adjacent islands for over 65,000 years.

The telescope received the name Murriyang, which represents the ‘Skyworld’ where a prominent creator spirit of the Wiradjuri Dreaming, Biyaami (Baiame), lives. The two smaller telescopes at CSIRO’s Parkes Observatory also received Wiradjuri names.

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The Moon is the Perfect Spot for SETI

In less than four years, NASA plans to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon as part of Project Artemis. This long-awaited return to the Moon is to be followed by the construction of the Lunar Gateway, the Artemis Base Camp, and a program of “sustainable lunar exploration.” The creation of an enduring human presence on the Moon will also create many opportunities for exciting scientific research.

For example, astronomers want to conduct radio astronomy on the far side of the Moon, where telescopes could probe the earliest period of the Universe free of terrestrial radio interference. Taking this a step further, a team of astronomers recently recommended that a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon (or in lunar orbit) could aid in another important area of research: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)!

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