Astronomers focus on EU-sized telescope

Astronomers focus on EU-sized telescope

EXPReS project connects four biggest radio telescopes

Four of Europe's biggest radio astronomy facilities are to be connected using high-bandwidth point-to-point circuits through the European Union's Express Production Real-time eVLBI Service (EXPReS) project.

EXPReS aims to establish 1Gbps point-to-point network connections between the central supercomputer and each of the partner telescopes across Europe's Geant2 network.

This network connects over 30 million European research and education users in 34 countries across the continent.

The four telescopes are located in Medicina in Italy, Torun in Poland, and Jodrell Bank and Cambridge in the UK. Being connected via Geant2 allows them to work together simultaneously and create, in effect, a single telescope as large as Europe.

"The EXPReS project has huge potential. By creating an internationally distributed electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometer we will be able to chart evidence of previously unseen astronomical events," said Dr Huib Jan van Langevelde, coordinator for the EXPReS project.

This will give astronomers the ability to track transient and short-lived events right at the edge of the known universe, helping astronomers to get a more complete view of the cosmos.

Astronomers hope that the project will enable real-time "rapid response, target of opportunity" science which will allow researchers to react quickly to unexpected events, such as supernovae explosions and gamma-ray bursts.

Led by the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (Jive), the project will expand to link radio astronomy institutes from across Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, South Africa and the US.

Jive is among the first to deploy the point-to-point services on the European-wide Geant2 network, and plans to connect up to 16 of the most sensitive radio telescopes around the world.

The use of point-to-point circuits will guarantee the bandwidth and quality of connections between users.

Geant2 infrastructure is built, planned and managed by the Dante research networking organisation.

"Geant2 provides connectivity for a variety of projects, supporting research innovation right across the globe," said Dai Davies, general manager of Dante.

"Its point-to-point connectivity allows dedicated, high speed data transfer and the benefits it brings are available to a variety of education and science research projects.

"The astronomy network created through the EXPReS project is particularly impressive in its size and geographic scope."