Aperture synthesis using orbiting telescopes


  • T. B. H. Kuiper,

  • S. P. Synnott,

  • R. P. Linfield,

  • G. M. Resch,

  • E. F. Tubbs


A study was carried out to determine the feasibility, with current technology, of performing aperture synthesis using two telescopes orbiting the earth in coordinated orbits separated by ∼ 10 m to 1 km. The objective was to determine whether there is a practical alternative to a very large, deployed, servo-controlled submillimeter telescope (i.e., the Large Deployable Reflector) for obtaining high resolution submillimeter images of astronomical sources. We find that suitable classes of orbits exist which can provide good uv coverage over the entire sky and that real-time correlation of wideband signals can be performed in orbit using current technology. The most difficult task appears to be the real-time determination of the orientation of the baseline vector in a stable coordinate system. We have identified a plausible scheme for the determination of an arbitrary direction to within 0.003 arc sec in an astrometric coordinate system. This scheme not only makes submillimeter interferometric image reconstruction possible but should also have numerous other applications.