‘Eye’ into space from Jelebu


What the skies hold: The Jelebu radio telescope will look similar to the UPSI-UM Radio Astronomical Observatory, the first in Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: The construction of Malaysia’s largest radio telescope is in progress in Jelebu, Negri Sembilan.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Faculty of Science (Department of Physics)’s Prof Zamri Zainal Abidin said the VGOS (VLBI Global Observing System) radio telescope was expected to be operational by the end of next year.

The telescope, which is currently in the foundation stage, does not resemble optical telescopes.

“It is actually a parabolic (dish) antenna and will be the largest – at 13m in diameter – to be used for astronomy research in Malaysia,” he said in an interview.

VLBI stands for Very Long Baseline Interferometry.

Radio interferometry refers to telescopes joined together in a big network to create one big telescope.

Prof Zamri, also the project leader, said UM was currently in collaboration with the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory and Xiamen University in Malaysia to build the telescope.

“This ties in with Thrust Five of the National Space Policy 2030, which is the internationalisation of space-related research and technology,” he added.

UM astronomer Dr Juan Carlos Algaba said radio telescopes could detect radio waves emitted by objects in space.

These waves were then “read” by a computer to form images, he said.

Algaba, who is from the university’s Faculty of Science Radio Cosmology Laboratory, is one of those involved in the development of the telescope together with students.

The university, he said, planned to collaborate with other countries such as Japan and China, and join their radio telescopes to conduct radio interferometry.

“This way, we can synthesise it into a bigger telescope that is much better and observe more details.

“It will allow some people to study blackholes, how galaxies evolve, how stars look when they are young and when they are dying,” he added.

Algaba said a workshop would be held from Sept 5-8 with experts from all around the world who are proficient in radio interferometry.

“We want to connect the Jelebu telescope with the ones in China, Japan, Eastern Europe and other countries so that we can make this gigantic, continent-sized telescope,” he said.

The workshop will be hosted by the Radio Cosmology Research Laboratory at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science.

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