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Interference from a Busy Planet

9 May 2019, 16:05 UTC
Interference from a Busy Planet
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Ground-based telescopes, like the ones used for radio and optical observations, have many advantages. Radio telescopes, observing at long radio wavelengths, can see through cloudy and dusty star forming regions. Construction costs are much lower, and maintenance is easier–traveling to the top of 5,000 meter mountain is, of course, faster than trying to coordinate the launch of a rocket into space. Earth-based observatories do have some complications–space traffic, in particular, is a problem. As the Very Large Array is busy scanning the sky, in its second of a seven-year radio sky survey, VLASS scientist, Amy Kimball, writes about the everyday challenges she encounters managing one the largest-ever radio sky surveys.

One of the most complicated issues that needs to be carefully accounted for in scheduling observation time, on the Very Large Array, is the presence of Radio Frequency Interference, or RFI, which refers to interfering radio signals from Earth-based sources or orbiting satellites. For example, cell phones, when they are in a certain range , cause interference for radio observations. These signals are so strong, compared to astronomical sources, that a single cell phone turned on can wreak havoc on a VLA observation, rendering certain observing frequencies virtually useless! (It’s ...

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