|Description:|| In April/May this year a two-week radio astronomy training school was held at the Ghana Radio Astronomical Observatory (GRAO) in Kuntunse, Ghana. The Kuntunse radio telescope is a 32m ex-Intelsat Satellite Communication Earth Station that has recently been converted for astronomical use. It is currently undergoing final testing by a commissioning team, which consists of the first Astronomy graduates from Ghanaian universities, together with staff from the South African Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO).|
This conversion is part of a larger project intended to build both skills and institutional capacity in SKA partner countries in preparation for the SKA, as well as to provide a scientific instrument in its own right: the African VLBI Network (AVN). JIVE is involved on several levels: the JUMPING JIVE EC project includes funding for developing the AVN and ensuring its inclusion in the EVN. Consequently, the GRAO has already participated in a fringe test with other EVN stations.
This particular two-week training program was part of a joint effort by JIVE, HartRAO and the University of Manchester DARA (Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy) project to train local students in the (mystical) art of radio astronomy, with a special focus on VLBI. Jay Blanchard from JIVE leant a helping hand on the training programme, giving him a great opportunity to see the progress being made at the telescope, and meet some of the people who have been working with JIVE on fringe finding attempts. Of course, it was also an excellent way to get an introduction to local cuisine (fufu is amazing)!
The students involved in this project (pictured above) will likely be the first operators and users of the AVN. It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm from these future AVN operators and users for getting their first real radio data!