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ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2011) — Using the super-sharp radio "vision" of astronomy's most precise telescope, scientists have extended a directly-measured "yardstick" three times farther into the cosmos than ever before, an achievement with important implications for numerous areas of astrophysics, including determining the nature of Dark Energy, which constitutes 70 percent of the Universe. The continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) also is redrawing the map of our home Galaxy and is poised to yield tantalizing new information about extrasolar planets, among many other cutting-edge research projects.
The VLBA provides the greatest ability to see fine detail, called resolving power, of any telescope in the world. It can produce images hundreds of times more detailed than those from the Hubble Space Telescope -- power equivalent to sitting in New York and reading a newspaper in Los Angeles. This power allows astronomers to make precise cosmic measurements with far-ranging implications for research within our own Galaxy and far beyond.
New measurements with the VLBA have placed a galaxy called NGC 6264 at a distance of 450 million light-years from Earth, with an uncertainty of no more than 9 percent. This is the farthest distance ever directly measured, surpassing a measurement of 160 million light-years to another galaxy in 2009.
Tiny Wobbles Will Reveal Planets
A long-term, sensitive search of 30 stars seeks to find the subtle gravitational tug that will reveal planets orbiting those stars. The VLBA's precision can reveal a "wobble" in the star's motion through space caused by the planet's gravity. A four-year program, started in 2007, is nearing its completion.
"This study tracks stars smaller than our Sun, seeking evidence of planets the size of Jupiter or smaller," said Geoffrey Bower, of the University of California, Berkeley. "We want to learn how common it is for these low-mass stars to have planets orbiting them at relatively large distances," he added.
The project uses the VLBA along with NRAO's Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the largest fully-steerable dish antenna in the world. Together, these telescopes can detect the faint radio emission from the stars to track their motion over time.
Early results have ruled out any companions the size of brown dwarfs for three of the stars, and the astronomers are analyzing their data as the observations continue.
Originally posted by chr0naut
reply to post by Xcathdra
There are also links to the Australian National Telescope array (which I got to drive one Monday morning about 6 years ago) and several other large telescopes & arrays.
By linking them all together we can create a combined array with a baseline as large as the planet! Pretty cool, eh.edit on 22/2/2011 by chr0naut because: (no reason given)