Aperture synthesis or synthesis imaging is a type of
Aperture synthesis is possible only if both the
In order to produce a high quality image, a large number of different separations between different telescopes is required (the projected separation between any two telescopes as seen from the radio source is called a baseline) – as many different baselines as possible are required in order to get a good quality image. The number of baselines (nb) for an array of n telescopes is given by nb=(n2- n)/2. For example, the
In contrast to radio arrays, the largest optical arrays currently have only 6 telescopes, giving poorer image quality from the 15 baselines between the telescopes.
Most aperture synthesis interferometers use the rotation of the Earth to increase the number of different baselines included in an observation (see diagram on right). Taking data at different times provides measurements with different telescope separations and angles without the need for buying additional telescopes or moving the telescopes manually, as the rotation of the Earth moves the telescopes to new baselines.
The use of Earth rotation was discussed in detail in the 1950 paper A preliminary survey of the radio stars in the Northern Hemisphere. Some instruments use artificial rotation of the interferometer array instead of Earth rotation, such as in