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From Spartan battles to modern radio telescopes

Submitter: Leonid Gurvits
Description: Thermopylae, the site of the epic battle of 480 BC that glorified 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians led by the King Leonidas of Sparta. Almost 2.5 thousand years later, Pablo de Vicente of the Yebes Observatory in Spain, a recent Chairman of the EVN Technical and Operations Group, and the undersigned (yes, not the first Leonid on that land) visited Thermopylae for a very peaceful reason: a group of radio astronomers and engineers in Greece initiated a project of rebranding an existing 30-m satellite communication antenna, built by the NEC in 1982, into a radio telescope. The visit to the antenna, which is located within walking distance of the historic battlefield, was hosted by Nectaria Gizani of the Hellenic Open University and Giorgos Veldes of the Thesaly University.

The aim of the visit was to get a first-hand impression of the state of the 30-m antenna and discuss steps toward making this communication instrument a modern radio telescope. Such a transition is very much in line with the main form of activity under the Horizon2020 project JUMPING JIVE. Indeed, the visiting duo represented two Work Packages (WP) of the JUMPING JIVE project, WP5 (Integrating new VLBI elements), led by P. de Vicente, and WP3 (Building new partnerships), led by L. Gurvits. The main outcome of the very friendly encounter in Thermopylae: there is every reason to expect that the map of radio astronomical Europe will grow. It would be a wonderful addition to the EVN baselines!

Photo: Pablo de Vicente, Giorgos Veldes, Nectaria Gizani and Leonid Gurvits (left to right) near the 30-m Thermopylae satellite communication antenna, 30 May 2019.
Copyright: Leonid Gurvits; JIVE
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