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Interferometry V

February 12, 2016

CREECH-EAKMAN: We should be able to look around black holes in other nearby galaxies and start to understand what’s happening in the very near region close to the black hole.

Michelle Creech-Eakman is one of several people leading the development of an unusual new telescope. Known as the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer, it will consist of 10 individual telescopes. Astronomers will combine their light to provide extremely sharp views of astronomical objects — sharper than any other telescope to date. And it’ll see fainter objects than any other optical interferometer.

With that clarity, astronomers will probe the regions around newborn stars, where planets are taking shape. They’ll look at old stars, which pulse in and out like beating hearts — and see the “beats” for the first time. And they’ll see how these stars surround themselves with clouds of dust.

And they’ll study the hearts of nearby galaxies that contain supermassive black holes, examining the environment around the black holes with unprecedented clarity.

CREECH-EAKMAN: We will be able to look at about 150 of the closest external galaxies that have these massive black holes. We should start be able to say something about the way the clouds are distributed around the black hole. We won’t ever be able to see the black hole itself, but we’ll be able to see the larger-scale structures. So that will be fun.

The first individual telescope will begin testing this spring, with two more telescopes following in the next few years.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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