Australian and Korean radio telescopes have hooked up for the first time to target a galaxy that is 3.5 billion light years away.
The initiative included two CSIRO dishes near Coonabarabran and Narrabri in New South Wales, a telescope of the University of Tasmania near Hobart, and two telescopes operated by the Korean Astronomy and Space Science Institute, one in Seoul at Yonsei University and a second near Ulsan in the southeast of the country.
The telescopes observed the same target simultaneously for five hours with data streamed in real time over optical fibre links to Curtin University in Perth. The data was sent from each telescope at the rate of 64 MB per second.
The high-speed data links for the observations were provided by the Australian Academic Research Network, AARNet, and its Korean counterpart, Kreonet.
The Oz-Korean collaboration formed a system acting as a gigantic telescope more than 8000 kilometres across and with 100 times the resolving power of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The targeted galaxy is known for its emission of string radio waves , a source called J0854+2006 and is believed to house a pair of supermassive black holes at its centre.
One black hole, with a mass of more than 18 billion times that of the Sun, one the largest ever discovered, it is orbited once every 11 to 12 years by a smaller black hole with a mass 100 million times that of the Sun.
The two black holes are are expected to merge in less than ten thousand years' time which will release a huge amounts of radiation CSIRO's Dr Chris Phillips, "we were observing at a high frequency, which can be challenging for this technique, but the experiment worked extremely well."
The international collaboration with Korea follows similar liaisons with Japan and China and initial tests with telescopes are also underway with India.
The process of combining signals from widely separated telescopes in this way is the a key technique that will underlie the coming international mega-scope, the Square Kilometre Array or SKA.
CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science Chief, Dr Philip Diamond who also sit on the Australia-New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee, called the demonstration "another reason why Australia would be an excellent choice as SKA host", saying said that the initiative was part of a commitment to scientific partnerships with other countries.
The decision whether the world’s largest radio telescope will be hosted in Australian or South Africa is scheduled for April 4. ®