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NWO-M grant for ARTS - the Apertif Radio Transient System

Submitter: Joeri van Leeuwen
Description: Last week we were officially awarded an NWO-M grant to expand Apertif with a tied-array beamformer and a time-domain back end, thus turning these new receivers into high-speed and very high resolution cameras. Apertif's factor 30 increase in field-of-view already allows for all-sky surveys with unprecedented sensitivity and speed. We will extend this wide-field Apertif system to both high time and angular resolution, enabling precision neutron-star timing, unique searches for fast transients, and extremely sharp imaging through VLBI.

ARTS, the Apertif Radio Transient System, is a hybrid FPGA-GPU machine, which will serve as a cutting-edge transient survey instrument, and as a pulsar-timing and VLBI backend for all WSRT users. The grant covers the extension of the firmware on the Apertif correlator Uniboards to produce up to 450 (!) simultaneous tied-array beams. These can fill out the entire Apertif field of view for transient searching. Through this same tied-array capability, Apertif can join VLBI observing; ARTS will even stream the individual Westerbork dishes to the expanded EVN correlator at JIVE, for VLBI over a field that is 10,000 times larger than currently possible with Westerbork. The beam-forming is also essential for Apertif-era pulsar timing studies. After this FPGA beamforming, signals for all these applications are further processed on a 500 TFLOP GPU cluster. This versatile back end covers the VLBI formatting, the coherent dedispersion for timing, or the full field fast-transient search.

Thanks to the work by the engineers, administrators and astronomers involved, at both ASTROn and JIVE, ARTS ended top-ranked a in very competitive NWO-M round. In a few years, ARTS that will offer a combination that is unique in the world, of wide-field detection and high-precision characterization of both neutron stars and black holes, for unprecedented studies of the nature of matter, space and time.
Copyright: ASTRON
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