Radio astronomy on the high seas

What is the best location to place a telescope?

The first answer that comes to people's minds is a mountain top. Ask them why and they might not know but they just might know that most telescopes are on mountain tops, so there must be a good reason there.

Well, in fact there is a reason. Telescopes work better when placed on mountain tops because there's less atmosphere for the telescope to look through, less atmosphere that can smear the images being taken leading to better science.

Actually. There's a small correction. Optical and sub-mm telescopes are best placed on mountain tops. Radio telescopes on the other hand can work just as well when placed at sea level.

Now. Following up to the first question,
What is the best location to place a radio telescope?

Because altitude doesn't matter, the main problem is radio interference. Man-made radio interference is the biggest source of noise to radio telescopes. This is the reason why the JVLA in NA is a designated radio quiet zone and that's why the GMRT goes to extreme measures to reduce man-made radio interference.

Now. Having settled that, here's my idea/question.

Most places on land are settled by humans. It's very hard to find a location where a telescope, and it's support crew, can live and which doesn't have a lot of radio interference. But. Note the on land part.

What if we placed a radio telescope out at sea?

That's ridiculous you say? How would anyone place a telescope in the middle of the ocean you ask? Oil rigs. Abandoned oil rigs. There are enough of them apparently, given the slump in oil at the moment.

Think about it. A radio telescope on an oil rig. Well, one that has been adapted to the needs of the radio telescope and it's support staff.

I agree that the journey could be a little rough. And that the stay might not be very comfortable. The location will also have to be chosen wisely, to understand how many operable days are available for a facility at the location. Which is fairly standard procedure, if you ask me. Site studies are conducted as part of every major telescope's design phase.

Anyway, I got reminded of this idea because I came across this article on Bloomberg that talks about abandoned oil rigs in the UK -

I'll stop for now.
Until the next time, until the next crazy idea ...

Popular posts from this blog

Animation using GNUPlot

Pandas download statistics, PyPI and Google BigQuery - Daily downloads and downloads by latest version

Adaptive step size Runge-Kutta method