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Africa as a missing link

For the future of black hole research, more telescopes are needed in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) network. A telescope in Southern Africa will improve the quality of the image and make the EHT network more stable.

Improving image quality and resolution

The EHT network functions as a virtual telescope the size of the earth and its imaging quality is comparable to photographing an apple on the Moon from Earth. The effectiveness of the EHT network depends on the number of telescopes that are looking at the target at the same time and their location relative to each other. The more connections that are possible between these telescopes, the better the image quality, the longer the separation of these telescopes, the better the resolution. The number of connections increases almost quadratically with the number of telescopes, which means adding a telescope that is able to connect to a lot of other telescopes while they observe a target improves the image quality significantely.

This is the Eearth as seen from the black hole in the centre of our Galaxy. In yellow are the connections within the current EHT Network, in red the connections the AMT adds.

Southern Africa as a prime location

Southern Africa has the benefit that it’s centrally located between the big telescopes in Europe, Latin America, North America and Hawaii, and hence it provides new and essential connections to major nodes across the globe.  Furthermore, the centre of the Milky Way is right overhead at that location, providing the longest and least disturbed view of the black hole in the centre of our own galaxy (Sgr A*).

Strengthening the EHT Network

The EHT project will continue their coordinated yearly observation, but the experience over the recent years have shown that the network is vulnerable to failures at individual telescope facilities (weather conditions and safety issues), and is dependent on the availability of telescopes to participate in the EHT observations for the long-term science goals. Analysis has shown that a single mm-radio telescope in Southern Africa can provide the required redundancy.

Perfect spot: Gamsberg, Namibia

gamsberg smal

Since water vapour in the atmosphere disturbs the signal, high and dry locations are needed for theses telescopes.Careful analysis of all the available locations in the Southern Africa region has shown that the Gamsberg in Namibia is the preferred site for hosting a mm-wave radio telescope. Namibia is one of the most stable African countries and has strong ambitions for social- and economic developments as layout in their national development plans. That is why this project aims to realize mm-wave Telescope on the Gamsberg Mountain in Namibia: The Africa Millimetre Telescope (AMT).