The European Commission concluded their final review of EXPReS (Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service), hailing the project as "extraordinarily successful" and encouraging the team to "explore any opportunity for further development".
The 3.5 year project, which concluded in August, established and improved network connectivity from some of the world's most sensitive radio telescopes to the correlator at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE), in which ASTRON's Westerbork Synthesis Radio telescope participates. The project also improved computing capabilities of the correlator itself, making real-time, electronic VLBI a regular and reliable astronomy technique available to the global radio astronomy community. This new service makes it easier for scientists to identify transient astronomical activity and conduct follow-on observations.
Published by the editorial team, 11 December 2009
In addition to the improvement in e-VLBI facilities, the EC also concluded that EXPReS will "inform the design of future facilities such as the SKA" (Square Kilometre Array).
"It has been recognized that we made major progress in EXPReS, both technically, in connecting these large telescopes across the world robustly, and scientifically, by providing new, real-time astronomical opportunities," said JIVE director Huib van Langevelde. "These results will be important for the SKA and in particular VLBI in the SKA era."
Comprised of 19 national astronomy institutes and national research and education network providers in 14 countries, and coordinated by JIVE, EXPReS represents "a successful example of how multidisciplinary projects can facilitate the collaboration among different scientific areas", according to the EC report.
Astronomers interested in conducting e-VLBI observations with the European VLBI Network can find proposal guidelines at www.evlbi.org/evlbi/evlbi.html.
About VLBI and e-VLBI
Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) is an astronomical technique by which multiple telescopes observe the same region of sky simultaneously. Data from each telescope is sampled and sent to a central processor which decodes, aligns and correlates the data for every possible pair of telescopes, allowing astronomers to generate images of cosmic radio sources with up to one hundred times better resolution than images from the best optical telescopes. Instead of the traditional VLBI method of recording data onto disks and shipping them to the correlator, electronic, real-time VLBI (e-VLBI) uses networks to stream the data electronically to the correlator for processing in real-time, allowing for on-the-fly telescope adjustments during observations and providing astronomers with data in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months.
The Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE, www.jive.nl) is a scientific foundation with a mandate to support the operations of the European VLBI Network (EVN). For this purpose it maintains, operates and develops the MKIV EVN Data Processor, a powerful supercomputer that combines the signals from radio telescopes located across the planet. Through this technique, called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), astronomers can make detailed images of cosmic radio sources, providing astronomers with the clearest, highest resolution view of some of the most distant and energetic objects in the Universe. JIVE is hosted by ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.
T. Charles Yun, Program Manager
Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe
+31 (0)521 596537
Kristine Yun, EXPReS Public Outreach Officer
Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe
+31 (0)521 596543