Europe’s radio and optical astronomy communities team up in new EC-funded project

A new project has kicked off to enhance cooperation between European astronomy facilities and promote transnational access among them. ASTRON (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy), ILT (International LOFAR Telescope), JIV-ERIC (Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC), and NOVA (Netherlands Research School for Astronomy) are partners based in the Netherlands.

Published by the editorial team, 25 March 2021

The new four-year project, called OPTICON RadioNet Pilot (ORP), brings together the two flagship communities of advanced radio and optical/infrared astronomy in Europe, through a funding commitment of 15 million euros by the European Commission.

“The ORP project represents an important opportunity to exploit the facilities operated by ASTRON. On the one hand, ORP will allow us to support users from the full scientific community to observe with the International LOFAR Telescope and to access all the data collections from the facilities that are shared through the archives we coordinate. Furthermore, it will allow us to explore common frameworks for multiple facilities for observing proposals, data access, and processing procedures,” says Roberto Pizzo, Head Science Data Centre Operations at ASTRON.

Thirty-seven partners are part of the ORP project. Among the radio astronomy partners are ASTRON, ILT, SKAO and 11 other institutes operating world-class European radio astronomy facilities. These include a number of SKA pathfinders such as the e-Merlin network in the UK, the international LOFAR telescope, the EVN/JIV-ERIC, and the Effelsberg telescope in Germany.

“The ORP project supports ASTRON in providing open access to the data archives for the LOFAR and APERTIF telescopes and will contribute to the development of a science analysis platform to be offered to astronomers worldwide as part of ASTRON's Science Data Centre,” says Hanno Holties, Science Data Centre (SDC) System Architect at ASTRON.

The French CNRS coordinates the overall project, while the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy serves as scientific coordinator for the radio astronomy partners.

The ORP project will build on previous successful programmes of transnational access to telescopes and arrays in Europe but will go further towards the harmonisation of national and European procedures, providing free reciprocal access to some of the best ground-based telescopes as well as training and support in operating the complex infrastructures.

Source: Radionet & MPIFR

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