Seeing Double: New System Makes The VLA “Two Telescopes In One”
The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) will get a new system allowing it to continuously monitor the sky to study the Earth’s ionosphere and detect short bursts of radio emission from astronomical objects. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) signed a $1 million contract under which NRL will fund a system to capture data from low-frequency radio receivers mounted on VLA antennas that will allow simultaneous and completely independent operation alongside the VLA’s standard scientific observations.
“This essentially will turn the VLA into two telescopes, working in parallel to perform different types of scientific research simultaneously,” said Dale Frail, NRAO’s Director for New Mexico Operations.
The new system, called VLITE (VLA Ionospheric and Transient Experiment), will tap data from 10 VLA antennas, and is a pathfinder for a proposed larger system called the Low Band Observatory (LOBO) that would equip all 27 antennas of the VLA. “The new system will operate independently of the VLA’s higher-frequency systems, using a separate path for data transmission and processing,” said Paul Ray, NRL’s VLITE system engineer.