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Expanding the BIMA Array

BIMA Consortium

The BIMA array's history dates back to the 1970's, when it consisted of just three antennas. Three new dishes were added in 1993, bringing the total then to six. Currently, eight dishes are operational. Plans call for an expansion to ten operational dishes within about a year.

The Dishes

When using an array, radio astronomers often want to employ as many dishes in as possible. The greater the number of dishes, the better an array can emulate a larger single dish telescope. That's because more dishes translates into more baselines that can be observed simultaneously. The more baselines, the more complete the resulting data.

Adding the extra dishes will also increase the BIMA array's sensitivity, thereby allowing it to detect further or fainter objects .

The Tracks

The dishes are placed along a "T" shaped track in three different configurations. Plans are in progress to extend the length of the tracks, thus allowing for longer baselines with higher resolutions. This enhancement will further improve the array's ability to pick out still finer details yet deeper in space.

The Data

While adding more dishes enhances the imaging power of the telescope, doing so also increases the amount of data generated per observing run. For example, ten dishes produce three times as much data as do six. Efficient handling of the resulting mountains of data poses a major computational challenge.

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NCSA. Last modified 11/12/95