UK astronomers using the Geant2 network now have the ability to track transient events right at the edge of the known universe, through the European Union's (EU) Expres project
Geant2 and its European National Research and Education Network (NREN) partners now connect four of Europe's biggest radio astronomy facilities using high-bandwidth point-to-point circuits.
The four telescopes are located in Medicina, Italy; Torun, Poland; Jodrell Bank and Cambridge in the UK, and being connected via Geant2 allows them to work together simultaneously and create, in effect, a single telescope as large as Europe.
The Expres project is among the first to deploy the point-to-point services on the European-wide Geant2 network, and plans to connect up to 16 of the most sensitive radio telescopes around the world.
Point-to-point circuits guarantee the bandwidth and quality of connections between users.
Each telescope location will send vast amounts of data for processing at a central supercomputer.
Using Geant2 to connect the telescopes in this way allows astronomers to work with greater speed between observation and publication, and allows them more control when problems occur.
And because images can be created so quickly, observations are now possible on short-lived astronomical events, helping astronomers to get a far more complete view of the universe.
Expres will enable realtime 'rapid response, target of opportunity' science which will allow astronomers to quickly react to unexpected events, such as supernovae explosions and gamma-ray bursts.
Led by Jive (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 Expres project has huge potential.
"By creating an internationally distributed electronic very long baseline interferometer (eVLBI) we will be able to chart evidence of previously unseen astronomical events.
"The Geant2 network managed by Dante is both scalable and has the required speed to outperform our current capabilities," commented Huib Jan van Langevelde, coordinator for the Expres project and director of Jive.
Aside from Geant2, network connectivity for this project in Europe is provided by associated partner NRENs.
In this particular case, the NRENs involved in connecting the four telescopes were Garr, Italy; Janet, UK; and PSNC, Poland.
The Geant2 infrastructure is built, planned and managed by the research networking organisation, Dante.
"Geant2 provides connectivity for a variety of projects, supporting research innovation right across the globe.
"Its point-to-point connectivity allows dedicated, high speed data transfer and the benefits it brings are available to a variety of education and science research projects.
"The astronomy network created through the Expres project is particularly impressive in both its size and geographic scope," said Dai Davies, general manager, Dante.
Expres aims to establish 1gbps network connections between the central processor at Jive to each of the partner telescopes involved.
This will utilise Geant2 point-to-point connections across Europe.
By providing extremely high quality connections between some of the world's most sensitive telescopes, the Geant2 network is proving the value of dedicated point-to-point network connections to the research and education community at large.