Photograph: Radio telescope was installed in Hawaii, as far as the team traveled (Department of Astronomy UdeC)
The time and place for the first telescope controlled by a Chilean university to begin operations and for the University of Concepción (UdeC) to materialize the milestone of being the first national academic institution to operate a telescope is getting closer. is that successfully The process of disconnecting the astronomical observation instrument from the Leighton Chajnantor Telescope (LCT), that at the end of this 2022 it is planned to start a long journey through the Pacific from Hawaii in the United States to arrive in the world capital of astronomy, Chile with its unique north.
The LCT is a high-impact project developed jointly by UdeC, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Shanghai Normal University in China (ShNU), with a management that began through the Department of Astronomy of the penquista house of studies, represented by its academic Rodrigo Reevesdirector of the CePIA Center for Astronomical Instrumentation, which is also part of the Center for Astrophysics and Related Technologies (CATA).
According to CePIA, the purpose of this large-scale initiative has been refurbish and transfer to Chilean territory a 10.5-meter-diameter radio telescope that is now installed in Hawaii. What is proposed and intended is to install the instrument in the Llano de Chajnantor, an area in the Chilean highlands in the Antofagasta Region, thousands of meters above sea level, where a group of international observatories operates, as it is considered one of the best astronomical observation sites in the world. With the correct installation and operation of the great team, it is expected perform deep mapping of the sky in a submillimeter range, observations still few. will also search characterize an early lifetime in the Universe known as the “epoch of reionization”, to which little access has been had with the existing instrumentation.
The UdeC, Caltech and ShNU signed a memorandum of understanding for the transfer, installation and maintenance of the radio telescope that, once it is operational, It will be remotely controlled from the Department of Astronomy of the UdeC.
And Dr. Reeves was in charge of the team of professionals that traveled to the United States ocean territory to develop the telescope disconnection works, as a crucial phase to be able to bring him, effectively, to Chile.
There were several intense weeks of work that culminated recently, at the end of July, in a process that involved a first group of specialists made up of David Brook, Electronic Engineer; Nicholas Lastra, mechanical civil engineer; Y Brian Andlerelectronic engineer who worked on the decoupling of control systems.
“At this stage they were several weeks. First, making aAnalysis of movement prior to the disassembly of the instrumentation that the telescope has, in order to characterize the system before disarming it. Then they carried out a testing procedure and then began to disassemble the electronics hanging from the telescope identifying the wiring, checking from which point to which point each cable went, making notes and marking the cables so that later the telescope can be wired properly and correctly. That job lasted a month”, said Rodrigo Reeves, who together with his peer from the Faculty of Engineering, doctor Christian Channelssupported the last stage of this process.
The complex process that awaits the radio telescope before traveling to Chile
Returning to Chile with the disconnection process successfully completed, Dr. Rodrigo Reeves recalled the experience of a crucial phase to achieve what is a milestone for the UdeC, but above all for regional and national astronomical sciences.
“Performing a thorough disassembly stage allows later, when you have to assemble the telescope again, to be efficient. This was a crucial stage that, in addition, required a lot of technical engineering personnel and other people to be able to do the packing work and get things ready to later load them into a container and bring them to Chile.“, held.
In this regard, he said that in the place where the telescope was, he found instruments in good condition, but also with a great job to do, especially due to the number of connected elements, which required high precision, dedication and registration for later reassemble everything in Chile. He added that “Since the telescope is around 25 years in operation, there was a lot of instrumentation and wiring that was not in use, making it difficult to track. For this reason, the task of monitoring and annotating the useful cables was more complicated than expected, because in addition to that, it was necessary to discard, which made the task more complex.”.
Disconnecting the telescope was a first challenge and now that it is disconnected comes the build the elements that will allow the transport of the primary reflector, which gives the size of the instrument (more than 10 meters) and that it is impossible to disarm. For this reason, to lower the structure from where it is installed in Hawaii to the port, it must be mounted on a pivotal structure that allows it to move in the vertical and horizontal axis, in such a way as to adapt to the needs of the journey. Said structure traveled from China on August 2, so it is expected that in at least 35 more days, after its journey by sea, it will reach Hawaiian soil.
“The timeline of what is to come is very intense, because it includes a wide variety of tasks. At this time, the telescope, in practice, waits for the cranes that are going to separate the primary reflector from the telescope pedestal to arrive; then those cranes are also going to remove the cabins that are attached to the pedestal, which is where the receivers were previously mounted”, stated the director of CePIA.
Once the descent is finished, the reflector will wait 30 kilometers from the port to be stored in a special box built with several containers, which will allow it to be safe from splashes of salt water, avoiding corrosion and deterioration of the main part of the telescope.
“The reflector is 10.5 meters in diameter and in order to assemble a box of containers that can receive it inside, 5 containers of 40 feet each, which are the largest, have to be disassembled and put together. To this is also added a supplement to be able to close this ‘box’ and that the container can travel to Chile by shipReeves specified.
According to the academic’s estimates, this should take place no later than November of this year. After that, the reflector and all the other parts that make up the telescope should arrive at Puerto Angamos, in the Antofagasta Region, between February and March 2023.
After the arrival of the technological equipment for astronomical observation in our country, it must be reassembled in the pivoting structure to travel to San Pedro de Atacama and then to its final place, in the same plane of the Alma Observatory. Once the assembly, the refurbishment and the commissioning (or testing period) of the telescope are completed, it is expected to be operational in mid-2024.