Raymond Blais

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Could personal telescopes be connected to create one large continental array?

I have just purchased my first telescope and during my research as to what telescope to buy, I discovered that for about $5000 you could buy a telescope that is as powerful as the big telescopes made just a few years ago that have greatly contributed to our knowledge of the universe. Could these telescopes with the computer and internet connection be coordinated to single point in space at a specific date and time and function like a continental telescope array?

  • Sep 10 2013: This is a reply to Edward Long's question.

    The source of the light pollution will be sunlight that is reflected off of the Earth. The Earth is roughly 4 times the diameter of the moon and reflected light from it will be roughly 16 times as bright assuming that the Earth and Moon have about the same albedo (reflectivity).
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    Sep 10 2013: Hi Raymond. You can ask SETI-people, they may have some ideas.

    How about getting a satellite? Instead of spending 5000 individually, which may be a considerable cost for a lot of people, more could chip in a smaller amount to achieve a greater, common goal.

    By the way - where do the Google Earth/Google Maps images come from...?
  • Sep 10 2013: It might not make an optical array, but that data could still be useful. If we are talking about digital telescopes in the range of $5000, it would not cost much more to capture the GPS location and the angle, then store all that data somewhere in the great cloud. The right software could use that data to spot asteroids and comets, and possibly undiscovered moons around the planets. NASA might be able to use it to help keep track of orbiting trash.

    Some of those images might just be beautiful, but it would take a very determined curator to spot them.
  • Sep 10 2013: Each individual telescope will only be providing data of relatively poor quality by astronomical standards, so while the picture provided would be comprehensive, it would also be of low quality.

    Coordination the data of the telescopes is also very problematic.
    You have to account for information delay, the telescope's position on the earth (which is by no means a perfect sphere), and possibly worst of all, atmospheric distortions (good luck measure those without an army of weather balloons). Throw in the problem you have every day with computers connecting, and it quickly turns into a herculean task, that doesn't really net you much in the way of good data.

    Its a nice concept, but I don't think its practical to apply on any real scale.
  • Sep 10 2013: Generally speaking the use of interferometric telescopes such as radio telescopes depends greatly on the ability to accurately measure the distance between the telescopes. The distance must be measured to within a tolerance that is on the order of the wavelength of the EM radiation being observed. Radio telescopes are possible because the tolerence is on the order of meters which is usually not to hard to do. Light waves vary in wavelength from about 400 to 700 nm and are much more difficult as a result. Furhermore, the distance can't vary by more than the wavelength. Siesmic vibrations as well as the normal daily temperature variations make this incredibly difficult for light. Though I have heard some talk that such a telescope might be possible on the dark side of the moon since these variations are much less there.
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      Sep 10 2013: To bad. It would have been a nice way to get people working together for something good.
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      Sep 10 2013: what would the "dark side of the moon" be? the moon rotates like the earth does, thus there is day and night everywhere. there is no dark side.
      • Sep 10 2013: Might have confused that with a Pink Floyd album. I meant the far side. The side that doesn't always have the Earth visible to it will have less light pollution on average even though it is pointed at the Sun half the time.
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          Sep 10 2013: What is the source of the light pollution of which you speak?
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          Sep 10 2013: i see. communication is a hassle though. webb space telescope will be placed at L2.