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High-speed network helps astronomers map the skies

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Astronomers now have the ability to track transient events right at the edge of the known universe, using a high-speed network that connects four of Europe’s biggest radio telescopes.

The four telescopes are located in Medicina in Italy, Torun in Poland, and Jodrell Bank and Cambridge in the UK. They are connected via the Géant2 network to create what is effectively a single telescope the size of Europe. The Géant2 network is also the infrastructure that links Europe’s fastest supercomputers in the Deisa project.

However, this is only the first step in a much larger plan. Members of the EXPReS project hope one day to connect up to 16 of the most sensitive radio telescopes around the world using point-to-point connections that guarantee the bandwidth and quality of connections between users. Led by JIVE (The Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe), the project will link radio astronomy institutes from across Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, South Africa and the USA.

The project will enable real-time responses to unexpected events such as supernovae explosions and gamma-ray bursts. The high-speed data transfer will be particularly helpful in capturing and transferring images of short-lived astronomical events.