Spain takes part in major global astronomy project with 9 telescopes and 2 satellites

RedIRIS and GÉANT2 networks enable real-time observations

9 telescopes and 2 satellites in Spain will take part in a major global astronomical observation on 3 and 5 April 2009. In total fourteen telescopes around the world will collaborate during the observation, enabling astronomers to simultaneously observe areas of space through multiple telescopes, providing more detailed images of the universe than previously obtained. To achieve these telescopes will send data in real-time via the high capacity NREN RedIRIS and GÉANT2 networks, which are underpinning this collaboration.

The observation is being conducted as part of "100 Hours of Astronomy", a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy ( As well Themis, SolarLab and Quijote (Observatorio del Teide), ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory & INTEGRAL gamma-ray observatory, Calar Alto Observatory (Centro Astronómico Hispano Alemán), IRAM 30-metre telescope, Gran Telescopio Canarias, William Herschel Telescope, Telescopio Nazionale Galileo and Swedish Solar Telescope (Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma), telescopes in the UK, Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, US, Chile, Puerto Rico, Australia and China are taking part in the observation. Astronomers are observing active galaxy 3C120, as well as quasars 0727-115 and 0234+285, switching between the three to accommodate different frequency observing capabilities of the participating telescopes.

Through a technique called real-time, electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometry (e-VLBI), astronomers use multiple radio telescopes to simultaneously observe the same region of sky. Data collected by each telescope is sampled and streamed in real-time to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands via high-speed communication networks. This central data processor, a purpose-built supercomputer, decodes, aligns and correlates the data for all possible pairs of telescopes. This results in the generation of images of cosmic radio sources with up to 100 times better resolution than images from the best optical telescopes.

JIVE is the coordinator of EXPReS, a three-year project funded by the European Commission to use data networks to link the telescopes and send the data electronically and correlate it in real-time. This eliminates the shipping of disks and provides astronomers with correlated data in a timely fashion, allowing them to exploit short-lived astronomical events such as supernovae and gamma ray bursts.

“Global collaboration is at the heart of modern scientific research. This project is the perfect example of this - working together with NREN RedIRIS and colleagues around the world enables a new, real-time approach to radio astronomy,” said Dai Davies, managing director of research networking organisation DANTE, which manages the GÉANT2 network. “High speed communication networks are helping us extend our view of the universe, benefiting astronomers and researchers across the globe.”

About RedIRIS
RedIRIS is the Spanish NREN (National Research and Educational Network) in charge of providing advanced communication services to the national scientific and academic community. This NREN has more than 300 affiliated institutions, essentially universities and public research centers.
RedIRIS' participation in R&D&I projects allows the validation of new technologies, adaptation of these to user community needs, support to specific activities carried out by research groups and, overall, accumulation of knowledge to improve the Spanish academic network. At present, RedIRIS participates in the following projects: EGEE-III, FEDERICA, GN2 and PASITO.
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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 GÉANT2:
GÉANT2 is an advanced pan-European backbone network that interconnects National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) across Europe. With an estimated 30 million research and education users in 34 countries across the continent connected via the NRENs, GÉANT2 offers unrivalled geographical coverage, high bandwidth, innovative hybrid networking technology and a range of user-focused services, making it the most advanced international network in the world. Together with the NRENs it connects, GÉANT2 has links totalling more than 50,000km in length and its extensive geographical reach interconnects networks in other world regions to enable global research collaboration. Europe’s academics and researchers can exploit dedicated GÉANT2 point-to-point links, creating optical private networks that connect specific research centres.

GÉANT2 is co-funded by the European Commission under the EU’s Sixth Research and Development Framework Programme. The project partners are 30 European National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), TERENA and DANTE. GÉANT2 is operated by DANTE on behalf of Europe’s NRENs. For more information, visit