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The survey telescope with the largest field of view in the world was inaugurated these days in Arava

The director of the observatory, Dr. David Polischuk from the Weizmann Institute, says in an interview to the Hidaan site that the telescope is actually an array of 48 small telescopes that together provide the possibility to observe an extremely wide field of view in order to locate planets, supernovae, sources of gravitational waves and more

The observatory of the Weizmann Institute designed to carry out sky surveys in Naot Samdar. Screenshot from a Weizmann Institute video
The observatory of the Weizmann Institute designed to carry out sky surveys in Naot Samdar. Screenshot from a Weizmann Institute video

The most powerful survey telescope in the world is currently being built in the south of the Arava as part of a new observatory of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The telescope consists of a distributed array of telescopes that now includes 32 instruments with an extremely wide field. At the end of the construction process, the array will number 48 telescopes and possess the best sky scanning capabilities in the world - three times more than any other telescope on Earth today. Each of the telescopes has a mirror with a diameter of 28 centimeters, and the entire array will be equivalent to a telescope with a diameter of 1.9 meters

The new observatory near Kibbutz Naut Smeder is being built under the leadership of Prof. Eran Ofek and Dr. Sagi Ben-Ami from the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics. This is the second research observatory built in Israel - more than 50 years after the first observatory was built near Mitzpe Ramon at the initiative of Tel Aviv University.

At the end of the construction process, the array will number 48 telescopes and possess the best sky scanning capabilities in the world - three times more than any other telescope on Earth today

The director of the observatory, Dr David Polishuk The Department of Physics Research Infrastructures says that the distributed telescope will make it possible to study passing phenomena in the sky in a better way than any other telescope, including the search for supernovae, sources of gravitational waves and planets around white dwarf stars.

In a conversation with Ter Hidaen, Polishok explains: "The larger the telescope, the more light you can collect and the fainter objects can be observed, but at the same time its field of view is small, therefore large telescopes are used for planned observations of objects in a relatively limited area of ​​the sky. But when you want to conduct surveys with the aim of discovering passing events and other changing events, the big telescopes have a disadvantage."

"Of course, you can get a large field of view using small telescopes, but then you lose resolution. In recent years the cameras have been perfected and it is possible to view small telescopes with high resolution. Our idea was to collect the light from 48 such telescopes together. These are small telescopes with a diameter of 11 inches - the kind found in astronomy enthusiasts from the settlement."

"48 telescopes cover an area of ​​365 square degrees, which is about 1,400 times the length of the angle of the full moon. The idea is to locate changing factors - supernovae, planets outside the solar system, asteroids. Usually such surveys are done by a large single telescope, for example the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile with a diameter of 6 meters. This is a billion dollar project. Our solution costs 1-2 million dollars. 32 telescopes are already operating and another 16 will be installed later and connected to the network. It is exciting. It's an experience to enjoy a new and special Mitzvah."

How did you set up the observatory?

"It can be said that we built the watchtower with our own hands. We used products off the shelf - telescopes, cameras and computers. We did the integration and wrote the software at the Weizmann Institute. You also need to take care of storage volumes because because of the wide field of view, the images take up large disk volumes. To find something in all these images we wrote a code, you can't do it manually."

Already during the first stages of construction View the telescope array In the collision of the Dart spacecraft with a dimorphous asteroid - and the findings from this observation are expected to be published soon.