Completed the construction of the most powerful radio telescope in the Northern Hemisphere

The Institute of Millimeter Radio Astronomy (IRAM) announced the commissioning of the latest antenna of the NOEMA radio telescope complex. The solemn opening ceremony of the observatory took place on September 30.

NOEMA radio telescope complex. Source: IRAM

The NOEMA complex is located on the Plateau de Bure in the French Alps. It consists of twelve 15-meter antennas. The first of them was installed in 2014. Thus, it took eight years to fully put the observatory into operation.

To date, NOEMA is the most powerful radio telescope in the northern hemisphere. Its antennas are equipped with highly sensitive receivers operating close to the quantum limit. During observations, they can act as a single telescope. For this purpose, the signals received by the antennas are combined into a single whole. This allows to create a virtual analogue of a radio telescope with a diameter equal to the distance between the external antennas. At the same time, if necessary, the observatory staff can move the antennas to other positions. For this purpose, a special rail system with a length of 1.7 km is used.

The completion of NOEMA is important news for astronomers. This is one of the few radio observatories capable of simultaneously detecting and measuring numerous signatures (a kind of “fingerprints”) of molecules and atoms. The complex will give researchers the opportunity to study the composition and dynamics of galaxies, the processes of birth and death of stars, comets, as well as the vicinity of black holes.

NOEMA radio telescope complex. Source: IRAM

It is also worth noting that even when not working at full capacity, NOEMA has already managed to make a number of discoveries. For example, the observatory observed the most distant galaxy known to date, formed shortly after the Big Bang. In addition, the complex measured the temperature of the relic radiation at a very early stage of the development of the Universe. 

You can also read about plans to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which will stretch from South Africa to Australia.

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