Astronomy Today


How can interferometry be used to obtain very detailed images?

Two of the leading VLBI projects today are the European VLBI Network and the American Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). Each of those VLBI systems can generate radio-wavelength images that are even sharper than visible-light images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The resolution of an image depends directly on the size of the telescope used to obtain that image. If, however, the light collected by two telescopes far apart from one another is carefully combined and analyzed using interferometry, the resolution of the resulting image can be as high as if it were obtained using a single telescope as large as the distance between the telescopes. If enough telescopes are used in a row, or in a carefully arranged pattern, it is possible to obtain images hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times more detailed than can be achieved by a single telescope alone.


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