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Radio Astronomy

Radio Astronomy – cutting data-transfer times from days to seconds

The EXPReS project uses dedicated high-speed GÉANT links to connect remote radio telescopes across Europe to a central data processor at JIVE, the Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry in Europe, situated in the Netherlands. Here the enormous volumes of simultaneous observation data that are transmitted over the network are correlated to form very sharp, high-definition images of cosmic radio sources. Data was previously collected at each telescope on magnetic tapes and later onto hard disk. These physical media were transported by courier, taking several days. Now, information is sent from telescopes to the central computer in just seconds, enabling astronomers to create real-time views of the outer reaches of the universe.

Use of high-speed network links has also enabled "Target of Opportunity" and "Rapid Response" science, giving the ability to observe unexpected astronomical events such as supernova explosions and gamma ray bursts.

“The EXPReS project has been transformed by our connection to the GÉANT network. Whilst the advancement of telescope technology means we can now carry out years’ worth of observations in days, the ability to then transfer that vast quantity of data between astronomers at such high speed means the pace of our research has accelerated beyond recognition, with real-time collaboration now a reality.”
– Professor Ralph Spencer, Jodrell Bank Observatory