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JIVE creates world's largest virtual telescopes

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Click to enlarge DWINGELOO, The Netherlands (28 August 2007) - Today, collaborators in the EXPReS project (Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service) conducted the first successful e-VLBI observations to jointly use telescopes in China and Australia, China and Europe, and for a brief period Australia and Europe. The observations were demonstrated today by the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE), in partnership with their European VLBI Network (EVN) colleagues in Europe, China and Australia, to advanced networking experts at the 24th APAN (Asia-Pacific Advanced Network) Meeting in Xi'An, China.

e-VLBI, or real-time, electronic very long baseline interferometry, is a technique by which widely separated radio telescopes simultaneously observe the same region of sky, and data from each telescope are sent in real-time to a central correlator via high-speed communication networks. The correlator is a purpose-built supercomputer which analyzes the data to allow researchers to map the sky. The correlator can produce data with up to one hundred times better resolution than the best optical telescopes. In other words, this technique creates a virtual single telescope with an observing area equal to the distances separating the actual telescopes.

When data from the telescopes are sent electronically via fibre optic network, they can be correlated in real-time by the central processor at JIVE. This technique, known as e-VLBI, is ideally suited to observations of transient events such as supernova explosions and gamma-ray bursts. Astronomers receive data quickly and can plan follow-on observations accordingly. This is an improvement on the traditional VLBI process of shipping hard drives to the correlator, which can take weeks for delivery alone.

In preparation for today's demonstration, data were recently obtained using European, Australian and Chinese telescopes in separate tests. Today's demonstration, however, provided the first real-time correlation results from China-Australia, China-Europe and Australia-Europe baselines.

"Getting this connectivity was not only a major technical achievement. It shows how a project like EXPReS can achieve things even beyond EC boundaries," said Huib van Langevelde, director of JIVE, an international institute to which the National Astronomical Observatory of China directly contributes.

Additional tests with telescopes in Puerto Rico and Chile are planned for the near future. EXPReS aims to implement up to 16 simultaneous 1 Gbps-network connections between the central processor at JIVE and partner telescopes across Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa, South America and the USA by 2009.
About JIVE
The Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) is a scientific foundation with a mandate to support the operations of the European VLBI Network (EVN). The major activity has been the development, construction and successful operation of the EVN Data Processor, a powerful supercomputer that combines the signals from radio telescopes located across the planet, creating a single virtual telescope of intercontinental dimensions. Using this technique of 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.

About EXPReS
Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service (EXPReS) is a three-year project funded by the European Commission with the objective of creating a distributed, large-scale astronomical instrument of continental and intercontinental dimensions. This electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometer (e-VLBI) is achieved using high-speed communication networks operating in real-time and connecting together some of the largest and most sensitive radio telescopes on the planet. EXPReS is coordinated by JIVE, the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, which is hosted by ASTRON, the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy, in Dwingeloo.

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Arpad Szomoru, Head of Data Processor Research and Development
Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service (EXPReS)
Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe
+31 521 596 500

Kristine Yun, Public Outreach Officer
Express Production Real-time e-VLBI Service (EXPReS)
Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe
+31 521 596 500

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Participating astronomy institutes and telescopes: Participating network organizations:

Last modified: October 15, 2007