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Very Long Baseline Array

The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a far-flung system of ten radio-telescope antennas that, working together, produces the most detailed images of cosmic objects available anywhere. Mauna Kea hosts the westernmost of the 240-ton dish antennas in the VLBA. The easternmost is on St. Croix in the Caribbean, and eight more reside on the U.S. mainland.  By combining the data from antennas spread so far apart, the VLBA can produce images hundreds of times more detailed than the Hubble Space Telescope produces using visible light.  In fact, if your eyes could see the same level of detail that the VLBA can "see" with radio waves, you could stand in New York and read a newspaper in Los Angeles!

The VLBA's sharp radio "vision" has allowed scientists to measure distances and motions in the Universe with amazing precision. Though it takes the Earth and our solar system more than 220 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, the VLBA can measure that motion in just days. Using the VLBA, scientists have revised their "yardsticks" for measuring the entire Universe.  In addition, the VLBA is a prime tool for studying stars in our own Galaxy and for unraveling the mysteries of the supermassive black holes that lurk at the cores of galaxies millions of light-years away.

The VLBA is one part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is a research facility of the National Science Foundation. You can learn more about the VLBA and its work from the  Very Long Baseline Array Observatory's website.

VLBA site on Mauna Kea  Globe - Planet Earth

The VLBA site on Mauna Kea                                    Globe - Planet Earth

Images courtesy of NRAO / AUI


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