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Astrophysics team wins international award for radio telescope technology


Victoria, BC – The 2005 “Laurels for Team Achievement Award” of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has been given to a team of 15 scientists from Canada, Japan, the USA, Europe and Australia. Dr Peter Dewdney of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the team’s principal Canadian investigator; other Canadian members include Dr Russ Taylor of the University of Calgary and Dr Wayne Cannon of York University.

This year’s award recognizes the exceptional astrophysics and engineering work of the Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Space Observatory Program (VSOP) team. Together, they have created a virtual radio telescope dish with a diameter nearly four times the radius of the earth. Canada provided the VSOP with one of its three radio-wavelength correlators. These instruments collect data from several earth-bound radio telescopes and from ground stations that are tracking the Japanese HALCA radio-telescope satellite. In sum, the correlators process the gathered data and produce detailed radio images of stars and galaxies. This technique, known as very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), was pioneered by NRC in the late 1960s.

“One of NRC’s strengths is its international collaborations with the best scientists in the world,” says Dr Pierre Coulombe, NRC president. “We are very pleased to have contributed to this boundary-breaking project and congratulate the team for their internationally acclaimed astrophysics and engineering work.”

The Canadian VSOP team benefited from $3.2 million of funding by the Canadian Space Agency.

“VSOP marked the Canadian Space Agency’s first space astronomy mission and successfully demonstrated our close collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada. The CSA funded instrument, built and operated by the Canadian team, provided spectacular high resolution radio images that help explain the nature of quasars and active nuclei of galaxies harboring massive black holes,” says Marc Garneau, president of the Canadian Space Agency.

Past recipients of the prestigious award include the Hubble Space Telescope Team, the US Shuttle team and the Russian MIR Space Station team. The award coincides with the 56th annual congress of the International Academy of Astronautics, being held in Fukuoka, Japan.