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Multiple scope array

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I remember a few years ago there was a program on imaging with a series of scopes (presumably in Chile / Hawaii or somewhere) whereby the fact that two or three identical scopes were trained on the same object then the resultant images in effect gave a result which was the equivalent of having a primary mirror the diameter of the distance between the scopes. Thus the image was a lot better than using one individual scope.

Corrections welcomed if wrong.

Could this method be replicated with say three smaller amateur scopes?

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No, in an unhappy nutshell. Because the wavelength of visible light is so short it would be necessary to achieve an impossible level of precision in creating light paths of equal distance between instruments and detector. That would be my understanding but I don't doubt a more competent reply will appear!


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There was a thread discussing this a month or so back; http://stargazerslounge.com/equipment-discussion/79689-how-do-you-build-optical-array-telescope.html

To sum up; you can sort of do it -- but doing it properly is REALLY REALLY hard.

Yes, some professional telescopes do it -- but not as a regular operation; it's still very specialized observation techniques.

VLT can combine 3 eight meter telescopes into an array (I suspect this is what you heard of). Keck can combine 2 10 meter telescopes. The resulting resolution in both cases is equivalent to a ~100m telescope. Neither of them can really 'image' objects in this mode though -- you need more telescopes to do that. What happens at the minute is that you create a model of what you think the object looks like, and then simulate the observations you'd see from that model, and compare that to the observations you get from the telescopes. The observations are 'visibility fringes' -- quite different from images. The strength though is that you can tell the difference between structures at the milli-arcsecond scale; far finer than you can with a single telescope.

To make a real image, you need to combine 'visibility fringes' from as many different telescopes with as many different separations ('baselines') as possible. Magdalena Ridge Observatory (Magdalena Ridge Observatory) probably has enough baselines to produce images. It is in early phases of commissioning now (their webpage seems quite out of date).

So, yes, optical interferometry will make images in the near future -- but it's really hard to do :)

Edited by FraserClarke

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