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Next Generation Space VLBI initiative: a Chinese start

Submitter: Leonid Gurvits
Description: One of the brightest highlightsŁ of the 28th IAU General Assembly in Beijing (August 2012) is an almost physical sense of the rapid progress of Chinese astronomy, in particular in the radio domain. This is a very pleasing sense since extensive links between Dwingeloo radio astronomers and their peers in China represent an example of efficient international collaboration for more than two decades.

The collaboration is now likely to reach a new high point in the area of space-borne radio astronomy. Recently, the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory has been awarded a governmental grant to investigate a feasibility of a next generation Space VLBI mission. During the IAU GA, the de facto kick-off meeting of the international collaboration formed to support this Chinese investigation was hosted by the National Astronomical Observatories of China and co-organised by Hong Xiaoyu (Director, ShAO, China), H.Hirabayashi (ISAS, Japan), K.I.Kellermann (NRAO, USA) and the undersigned.

The study is led by Hong Xiaoyu (a former JIVE trainee and currently a member of the JIVE Board and EVN Consortium Board of Directors) and will last for three years. The study output will serve as an entry into the competitive process of formation of the ambitious Chinese space science programme for the next decade. At present, the study is centered around a dual-spacecraft mission to conduct VLBI observations at 8, 22 and 43 GHz. However, other configurations and observing bands are not ruled out.

The meeting attracted some 60 participants from China and abroad (see the picture). The full-day programme has begun from an introduction by the spiritual leader of the Chinese Space VLBI initiative (as well as virtually all other radio astronomy projects in China) Mme Ye Shuhua (in the centre of the front row).

It was a good start with many interesting ideas brought up for further detailed evaluation in the coming months and years. A continuation of the story will follow. Stay tuned.
Copyright: Picture credit: Shanghai Astronomical Observatory
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