Machine Design

Developing the digital telescope

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Northeast Radio Observatory, collaborating with several other organizations, are developing a completely digital low-frequency array (Lofar) telescope. This radio telescope will probe the surface of the sun. It has no moving parts, can observe several directions simultaneously, and has extensive frequency and pointing agility.

The array contains 13,000 dipole antennas, operating in a 10 to 240-MHz range, clustered in roughly 100 stations that cover a 240-mile area. It connects through fiber-optic links and is capable of digitally forming multiple simultaneous beams that can be electronically steered. The array is a flexible system for distributed control, signal processing, monitoring, and remote operation. Researchers expect the telescope to be completed by 2006.

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