Look into the depths of space: the unique radio-optical telescope Heruni

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Look into the depths of space: the unique radio-optical telescope Heruni
Look into the depths of space: the unique radio-optical telescope Heruni

In a picturesque mountainous area, just 40 kilometers from Yerevan, near the villages of Orgov and Tegher, there is the world's first radio-optical telescope, known in scientific circles as ROT-54 / 2.6. It was designed and created by the brilliant scientist, radiophysicist and engineer Paris Heruni, after whom the instrument is called the Heruni mirror telescope.


How it all started

Paris Misakovich Heruni (1933-2008) was a Soviet scientist, radiophysicist, radio technician, engineer and academician of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (since 1996, Corresponding Member since 1982), Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of Antennas of the Yerevan Polytechnic institute. Back in 1964, the young and ambitious Paris Misakovich, a graduate of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, who served as Deputy Director for Science of the Institute of Radiophysics and Electronics of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR, proposed to Sergei Korolev a fundamentally new system for observing outer space.

The layout of Heruni, which Korolev saw, amazed the great designer: the Armenian researcher proposed to create the world's first radio-optical telescope, in which the main spherical mirror is motionless, and you need to aim with the help of a second, auxiliary mirror.

Korolev approved Heruni's proposal, and after various bureaucratic delays, a team of scientists led by Paris Misakovich managed to start building the telescope. ROT-54 / 2.6 was designed and built at the Research Institute of Radiophysics (Yerevan) in 1975-1985 on the territory of the Aragats Scientific Center of NIIR, at an altitude of just over 1,700 meters. The ROT has a stationary spherical radio mirror with a diameter of 54 meters (initially Heruni planned to make a stationary mirror with a diameter of 100 or even 200 meters, but funding was agreed only for a smaller project) and an optical mirror with a diameter of 2.6 meters (hence the abbreviation for a telescope).

Heruni received permission for the construction itself in the 70s, and from 1981 to 1985 there was an active phase in the construction of the telescope, which is also unique. With the help of explosions on the slope of Mount Aragats, a foundation pit was created, then a concrete bowl was poured into it. 3600 shields made of high-strength alloys based on aluminum with additions of copper, magnesium and manganese, which were attached to iron pipes, were "walled up" in it. Of particular technical difficulty was the polishing of the shields (with an average size of one by one meter), which paved the telescope mirror, because the reception of radio waves in the millimeter and submillimeter ranges depends on the quality of the surface of the shields. Therefore, each panel of the mirror was hand-molded and finished with 70 micron precision.

To implement this laborious idea, a foundry was built, in which a large rotary lathe brought from Russia was installed to fine-tune the surface of the cast panels to the required accuracy. According to Heruni's biographer Ruben Ter-Antonyan: “In Yerevan, Heruni found an old aluminum casting master, who had already retired, and convinced him that he was the only one who was able to cast the required number of shields with high quality”.


By 1987, all the necessary infrastructure was completed and the telescope was put into operation, and a little earlier, in 1986, Paris Misakovich Heruni received patent No. 1377941 with the assignment of the invention to the name “Mirror Radio Telescope Heruni”.



After the completion of construction and the start of operation of the antenna, new discoveries did not take long to wait. The exact data obtained by the telescope in the first years of its operation allowed two major scientific discoveries of world significance to be made.

First, it was found that explosive activity occurs on stars that are commonly called red giants (they belong to the spectral class K and M luminosity class III), although such phenomena have not been recorded before. Astronomers working with ROT-54 / 2.6 accidentally noticed a flash - an impulse to Eta Gemini (η Geminorum). And so the discovery happened.

Secondly, as Paris Misakovich himself wrote in 2007: “According to the widespread theory, the Universe was born as a result of the Big Bang, from which there should now be a residual (relict) radiation of 2.7 K. But, since the intrinsic ROT noise is 2.6 K (a not 2.6 + 2.7 = 5.3 K), then this proves that there is no residual radiation in the Universe, which, in turn, indicates that there was no Big Bang in the Universe”.

According to a number of researchers and scientists today, since the diameter of the telescope hemisphere during construction work was reduced from 200 to 54 meters from the original project, it turned out that the final accuracy parameters laid down in the design project could not be achieved. Thus, the telescope is not distinguished by a record low intrinsic noise temperature, which makes it possible to register the microwave radiation of the Universe, as Heruni thought. That is why the measurements carried out by him gave a negative result, although today it is still too early to say that in the study of the relict study and the theory of the Big Bang, all the dots above the "e" will soon be placed.

Recently, opinions and statements have begun to appear that the ROD-54 / 2.6 radio-optical telescope did not work and cannot work either in the decimeter, let alone in the microwave range of waves due to numerous reflections from metal structures. In this case, a completely logical conclusion arises: if the telescope did not work, how did Heruni and his team manage to mislead and keep all specialists in the Soviet Union in the dark for at least ten years? And for what purpose? To create the appearance of a job just to get paid? Agree, if the telescope did not function, it is unlikely that Heruni would have been able to hide this fact. In addition, not only domestic but also foreign specialists visited the famous slope of Mount Aragats.

The Heruni telescope changed not only the world of science. The construction and operation of the antenna has led to an improvement in the life of the population of local villages, many residents have participated in the construction of the site for the telescope and the surrounding buildings, and today they lead excursions for everyone who wants to see the first radio-optical telescope.

An asphalt road ran to the villages of Orgov and Tegher. Next to ROT-54 / 2.6, GECAI, the State Reference Center for Antenna Measurements, has gradually grown. This institute carried out important military orders, including for actively developing air defense systems. Various antennas were brought here from all over the Soviet Union to investigate their parameters, including the so-called fly-by method, placed on helicopters.

Over the years of rapid development of the complex, many buildings and antennas have appeared on its territory. In the immediate vicinity of the famous radio telescope, there is an unfinished solar energy concentrator AREV, named after a character from Armenian mythology who is the personification of the Sun.

The focus of AREV was to build a turbine converter, and on the model, located in the control room ROT 54 / 2.6, one can see the elder brother of the Heruni radio-optical telescope, which should exceed ROT 54 / 2.6 exactly twice. Unfortunately, its construction was never carried out.The collapse of the Soviet Union and the change in the vector of development of science radically changed the plans of Academician Heruni, which remained forever captured on the model.


Inside the buildings with laboratories, which are located near the telescope, you can find painted walls on the theme of scientific discoveries. In front of the control room ROT 54 / 2.6, there is a solar calendar made of igneous rock - red tuff: it not only meets the basic requirements of science, but also has a cultural value. This is a tribute to the memory of the ancient Armenian astronomers, whose trace in history was so diligently emphasized by academician Heruni. The famous sculptor Arsen Panosyan worked on the decoration of this solar calendar.

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Bright future?

Despite the fact that from 1995 to 2010 work was carried out to restructure the computer control system of the radio telescope, configure and program new special software, as well as a program for scientific cooperation with the Astronomical Society of Russia and the National Technical University of Athens, today more than half of the buildings on the territory of GETSAI abandoned, and ROT 54 / 2.6 ceased to be used since 2012.


Because for the further operation of the telescope, it is necessary to update the control system, carry out a comprehensive adjustment, replace outdated analog sensors with digital ones, and modernize the data processing system. All this will cost, according to experts, in the amount of about $ 25 million. The state at the moment cannot allocate the required funds, so the entire research complex is being mothballed. From year to year, news appears that restoration work will begin soon and, possibly, in the next decade, ROT 54 / 2.6 will start working again. But we can only hope that funds will be found, and plans to restore and operate the unique telescope will be implemented.

If the Heruni reflector telescope is restored to function, this instrument could become a vital link in the international network of super-long baseline radio telescopes. In addition, the telescope antenna can be used for such tasks as space communications, radar of celestial objects (to compile a new catalog of radio sources), space flight control, and, of course, as the GLONASS ground infrastructure.

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