More radio telescopes are always, always, always better. The reason for this is that it's possible to use a lot of little radio telescopes to replicate one giant radio telescope with the diameter equal to the distance between the two farthest ones, and with an angular resolution that increases based on the number of telescopes in the array. In the late 1970s, the Very Large Array in New Mexico deployed 27 separate antennas, and that seemed like a lot, but the Atacama Large Millimeter Array has raised the bar substantially with its 66 (!) antennas spread out over an area with a diameter of up to 16 kilometers. The final antenna (on the yellow transporter in the image above) was moved into place this week.
Over the radio frequency spectrum, ALMA can resolve features in five times more detail than the Hubble Space Telescope can, which is 10 times better than the Very Large Array. This isn't entirely surprising, since the VLA is four decades old, and Hubble is (somewhat shockingly) coming up on its 25th anniversary. Ten years from now, though the Square Kilometer Array should be operational, which will network radio telescopes between Australia and Africa to create a synthetic radio telescope that's 50 times more sensitive than everything we've ever had before.
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