Scientists in Ghana have successfully converted a communications antenna into a Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) radio telescope. The country is the first partner of the African VLBI Network (AVN) to complete a full refurbishment. The 32 m-diameter dish is located in the Ghana Intelsat Satellite Earth Station at Kutunse and has passed a series of detection tests.
VLBI networks – arrays of radio telescopes – are used to image the radio universe in unprecedented detail. They rely upon the principle that each telescope will receive a different signal of the same source. When combined, the multiple signals create an extremely high-resolution image of radio sources.
Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Africa and its partners aim to convert redundant telecommunication dishes found across Africa into VLBI telescopes. These antennas have been made obsolete because of the introduction of optical-fibre networks. Alongside radio telescopes in South Africa, each converted telescope will be integrated into the AVN, forming a continent-wide array. The AVN will then be connected to similar groups across the world, thereby creating a global VLBI network.