[AfrICANN-discuss] First point-to-point research network circuit between Europe and Africa enables astronomers to create a more detailed view of the universe

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Wed Apr 25 15:38:19 SAST 2012


First point-to-point research network circuit between Europe and Africa
enables astronomers to create a more detailed view of the universe
*Lilongwe, Malawi, 25 April 2012*: Radio astronomers in Africa and across
the globe will benefit from faster collaboration through a dedicated, high
speed 15,000 km network link between the pan-European GÉANT and African
UbuntuNet Alliance education networks announced today.

The 2Gbps point-to-point circuit will enable astronomers at the
Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in South Africa to
stream observational data to the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE)
in the Netherlands for processing and correlation, and is the first
point-to-point circuit between GÉANT and UbuntuNet.

HartRAO, located in a valley in the Magaliesberg hills, 50 km west of
Johannesburg, is the only major radio astronomy observatory in Africa.
Through the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), it
collaborates with radio telescopes on other continents to form a virtual
telescope the size of the Earth.

Combining observations from multiple telescopes using VLBI allows more
detailed observations of distant astronomical objects than with any other
technique. Information is sent in real-time from radio telescopes around
the world to JIVE, where these enormous volumes of simultaneous observation
data are correlated to form high resolution images of cosmic radio sources.

The establishment of the point-to-point circuit is part of the European
VLBI Network’s (EVN) e-EVN development programme for electronic VLBI
(e-VLBI). This uses high speed research networks to transfer data for
processing in real-time is an alternative to the traditional VLBI method of
recording and shipping data on disk. e-VLBI enables observations of
transient phenomena such as supernovae, using the highest resolution
astronomical technique possible.

“This is collaborative research and education networking at its best,” said
Dr F F (Tusu) Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance. “Providing a
point-to-point link between Hartebeesthoek and JIVE in the Netherlands
benefits the entire global radio astronomy community, as it enables faster,
more detailed observations to be shared in real-time and consequently
dramatically increases our knowledge of the universe.”

The point-to-point circuit will seamlessly add the 26m telescope at
Hartebeesthoek into the e-EVN array at the highest possible data rate. It
will be used for a series of 10 observing sessions annually to observe
targets that would benefit from the rapid turnaround that analysing the
data in real time provides. The fast turnaround of results through the
e-EVN enables decisions on further observations to be made whilst the
astronomical event is still in progress, thereby enabling the study of more
rapid transients, such as supernovae.

“This new link between Africa and Europe is the perfect example of close
co-operation between research networks across the globe, working together
to provide astronomers and scientists with the infrastructure they need to
advance their work,” said Cathrin Stöver, Chief International Relations
Officer, DANTE, the organisation which on behalf of Europe’s National
Research and Education Networks (NRENs) has built and operates the GÉANT
network. “As the first point-to-point link between Europe and Africa, it
shows the truly global nature of research and should encourage even greater
collaboration between the two continents moving forward.”

For the global radio astronomy community, adding HartRAO into the e-EVN
array will improve the North/South resolving power, thereby allowing more
detailed source structure to be seen, especially in the southern sky.

Research data gathered at HartRAO, a member institution of the South
African national research and education network (NREN), TENET, flows in
succession across the networks of TENET, UbuntuNet, GÉANT and Dutch NREN

*About GÉANT*
GÉANT is the high speed European communication network dedicated to
research and education. In combination with its NREN partners, GÉANT
creates a secure, high-speed research infrastructure that serves 40 million
researchers in over 8,000 institutions across 40 European countries.
Building on the success of its predecessors, GÉANT has been created around
the needs of users, providing flexible, end-to-end services that transform
the way that researchers collaborate.  GÉANT is at the heart of global
research networking through wide ranging connections with other world
regions, underpinning vital projects that bridge the digital divide and
benefit society as a whole.

Co-funded by the European Commission under the EU’s 7th Research and
Development Framework Programme, GÉANT is the e-Infrastructure at the heart
of the EU’s European Research Area and contributes to the development of
emerging Internet technologies. The project partners are 32 European
National Research and Education Networks (NRENs), TERENA and DANTE. GÉANT
is operated by DANTE on behalf of Europe’s NRENs. For more information,
visit www.GEANT.net <http://www.geant.net/>

*About UbuntuNet Alliance*
UbuntuNet Alliance is the regional Research and Education Network for East
and Southern Africa. It is an Alliance of 13 NRENs in the region aiming at
interconnecting with each other and connecting to other regional networks
globally. The Alliance is also working towards enabling collaboration in
research and education over world class networks. The Alliance was
established in 2005 and registered in 2006 as a not-for-profit regional
association of NRENs in Eastern and Southern Africa. It has participated in
several EU FP7 projects and is committed to the role of the advanced
networks in unlocking Africa’s intellectual potential by ensuring that
African Researchers and Educators achieve equity with the rest of the world
through equitable access to global knowledge infrastructure. The Alliance
is working with DANTE on the implementation of the AfricaConnect project
which builds on a proven relationship between Europe and sub-Sahara Africa.
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