Artist concept of our Milky Way galaxy

NASA's Deep Space Network station near Canberra, Australia, configured with Australia's Parkes Radio Observatory is observing radio wave emissions from Supernova 1987a, the first such star explosion in the neighborhood of the Milky Way Galaxy since 1604.

Early optical readings indicate particle emission velocity of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) per second, about 30th of the speed of light. The star explosion was first detected by astronomers Feb. 24.

The supernova, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 160,000 light years away, is at declination of 69 degrees South and can only be observed in the Southern Hemisphere.

A spokesman for the Deep Space Network at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., said the 34-meter (110 feet) DSN antenna at Tidbinbilla near Canberra and the 64-meter (210 feet) Parkes facility 200 miles away are configured together using microwave link to form one giant radio telescope, process called interferometry.

The DSN-Parkes interferometer began observations Feb. 26. Parkes is operated by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

"These radio astronomy observations provide higher angular resolutions than can be achieved with existing Earth or space-based optical telescopes," said Dr. Nicholas Renzetti, manager of the Tracking and Data Acquisition Science Office at JPL.

Radio astronomy, which detects microwave emissions rather than visible light, using the interferometer can distinguish celestial objects tens to hundreds of times more accurately than can optical telescopes, he said.

The microwave link was established between DSN and Parkes for the Voyager 2 Uranus encounter in January, 1986. The link was critical to Voyager imaging and science data acquisition. The DSN also has stations near Madrid, Spain, and at Goldstone, Calif.

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