The team, including researchers from the Australian National University, say that linking radio telescopes in an array currently requires that each telescope has access to an atomic clock to record the precise time when a signal is detected from an object in space.
But co-lead researcher Professor Ken Baldwin from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering said the team demonstrated for the first time that a stable frequency reference can be reliably transmitted more than 300 kilometres over the fibre optic network to link two radio telescopes.
“The new technology we’ve developed could be particularly useful for the Square Kilometre Array, a global effort to detect faint radio waves from deep space with a sensitivity about 50 times greater than that of the Hubble telescope,” said Professor Baldwin..
Square Kilometre Array is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope using arrays in Australia and South Africa. Individual radio telescopes will be linked to create a total collecting area of about one million square metres.
“The new technique doesn’t require any substantial changes to the rest of the fibre optic network and is easy to implement,” Professor Baldwin said.
“By running the experiment on optical fibres also carrying normal traffic, we showed that transmitting the stable frequency standard doesn’t affect the data or telephone calls on the other channels.
“This is necessary to gain the cooperation of the telecommunications companies that own these fibre networks.”
ANU conducted the research (published in Opica) with Australia’s Academic and Research Network, CSIRO, the National Measurement Institute, Macquarie University and the University of Adelaide.