Allen Telescope Array Delivers First Results

Researchers at the Allen Telescope Array in northern California have released the first results from the observatory. The most important images captured show the movement of atomic hydrogen clouds in the spaces between nearby galaxies. Researchers hope to use these images to prove atomic hydrogen clouds move into the regions of galaxies where stars form and contribute to stellar formation in these regions.
Radio image showing atomic hydrogen in the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) (Source: SETI/UC Berkeley)
Radio image showing atomic hydrogen
in the Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
(Source: SETI/UC Berkeley)

Scientists are particularly interested in these images of the atomic hydrogen clouds because they could explain one of the great mysteries of modern astronomy – that some galaxies don’t seem to contain enough gas to support sustained star formation. Existing observations of the atomic hydrogen clouds show them primarily in the intergalactic regions devoid of stars so their mass is not included in current calculations. Proving the clouds migrate into the galaxies where the stars form would satisfactorily explain the missing gas.

Researchers are also using the Allen Telescope Array to examine the continuous spectral range of radio frequencies from star forming galaxies and for deep detection of radio sources in the bulk of the northern sky. The radio emissions from galaxies are providing insight into the cooling processes in the galaxies while the sky survey has detected over 250,000 radio sources.

Formerly known as the One Hectare Telescope or 1hT, the Allen Telescope Array is a joint venture of the SETI Institute and the University of California at Berkeley designed for both traditional radio astronomy observations and to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. The first phase, currently completed and in operation, consists of 42 dishes, each six meters in diameter.

Once all planned phases are finished, the array will consist of 350 radio antennae of that size. The full array will cover a view of 2.5 degrees, more than 17 times larger than the largest radio telescope array currently in operation. It will then have the collecting area equivalent to a single dish 114 meters in diameter and the angular resolution of a dish 700 meters across. It will monitor a very wide range of radio frequencies running from 500 megahertz to 11.2 gigahertz, a larger range than any other single radio telescope or radio telescope array.

TFOT has previously reported on other new observatories and telescopes including the Herschel Space Observatory submillimeter telescope and its first images, a video explaining the design and operational capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope, the progress of the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile, and the completion of the Antares Telescope, an underwater neutrino telescope also designed to monitor the ocean where it resides.

Read more about the Allen Telescope Array on its official page at the SETI Institute and learn more about the early results in this report (PDF).

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