First 19 HERA dishes activated in the Karoo.

Here’s some great news, the first stage of the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) has been finished and is now taking data. Now, witness the might of this fully operational battlestation. Well, actually we’re far from full size, so far we’ve got 19 out of the planned 350 dishes.  Here’s a picture.hera19Each dish is 14 meters (42ft) across. The feeds are borrowed from the PAPER array (seen in the background) and hung over the dishes from telephone poles ala Arecibo. The 19 element array has about the same collecting area and sensitivity as the full PAPER array.

In a couple years time HERA will cover the rest of the field, to be about the same size as Arecibo, actually. This is a big size: for Americans think eight football fields arranged in a two by four grid, or a typical super Walmart with an extra large parking lot. If you’re thinking ahead to the olympics in Brazil, HERA will be about the same size as Maracanã stadium where the opening ceremonies will be held.

Here is the field crew that built this first stage.

H19 Crew

Now comes the fun of taking our new telescope for a test drive.  Data taking has commenced and will continue until we start building to HERA 37 in 6 months or so. The data look great; the collecting area boost is amazing.