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Advanced Radio Astronomy in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - RadioNet (Advanced Radio Astronomy in Europe)

Période du rapport: 2020-01-01 au 2020-12-31

RadioNet comprised 27 institutes in Europe and beyond operating world-class radio astronomical infrastructures (telescopes, laboratories, computing facilities and archives). Building on national investments and commitments, RadioNet leveraged these capabilities on a European scale.
The project has successfully addressed its main objectives:
• facilitate free access to a complete set of key European radio astronomy facilities and to attract new users by providing a suited support;
• equip scientists and engineers with the essential skills to take maximal advantage of the access and to provide a joint channel for the dissemination of results;
• develop state-of-the-art hardware and software necessary to boost the scientific output and the impact of RadioNet;
• facilitate scientific and technical interaction among the partners, industry and other stakeholders; and
• provide an over-arching collaboration platform towards a self-supporting structure.
Through Transnational Access (TA) to complementary facilities and due to the interconnections of expertise and infrastructures, scientists are extremely competitive in the field of multi-messenger astronomy. Key examples are the detection of gravitational waves from black hole mergers, and the first image of the event horizon of a super massive black hole. Crucial contributions were made to these discoveries by facilitating technological developments for mm-infrastructures, upgrading equipment, developing technology and software, and training new users.
RadioNet has enabled cutting-edge science, top-level R&D and excellent training for its facilities, assuring that European radio astronomy maintains its leading role for next-generation facilities.
RadioNet organized and fostered activities on all aspects of the infrastructures: access, development, training, dissemination and sustainability. The activities combined and enhanced the expertise of European scientists and technicians at the forefront of research and development.
In total, RadioNet offered free-of-charge access to 1900 users performing a total of 359 scientific projects and receiving 7600 observing hours (180% above contract). The TA projects addressed current topics (supermassive black holes, gravitational waves, Fast Radio Bursts). The first results have been published in already 52 peer-review papers.
The Dissemination activity broadcasted the scientific highlights and the technological developments in the context of the RadioNet infrastructures, while promoting RadioNet and its activities. The organization of scientific and technical events was supported. Over 3300 scientists (30% female) promoted their scientific discoveries at 43 events. A total of 13 technical events hosted more than 1500 engineers and technicians from Europe and beyond. These events focussed on project developments, collaboration with industry, and transfer of knowledge.
We addressed the technical needs of individual research institutes and closed the knowledge gap, by supporting a staff exchange across the community. There were 19 world-wide staff visits to 9 RadioNet partners that focussed on hardware and software development. Important steps were made in the standardization for operations and equipment of the European VLBI Network (EVN) and the Global mm VLBI Array (GMVA). Significant developments toward higher data recording rates (from 1 to 4 Gbps, 32 Gbps is envisaged) and e-shipping of data have resulted in higher sensitivity and lower operational costs.
The Committee on Radio Astronomy Frequencies-CRAF addressed the protection of the radio frequencies for scientific use at international spectrum management meetings.
Education of the future generation was one of the key missions of a dedicated Training activity. For example, the European Radio Interferometry Schools (ERIS) had hands-on sessions to take newcomers through all aspects of the radio interferometry. Also, the annual Young European Radio Astronomers Conference (YERAC) provided students with early opportunities for interactions and networking with peers. We developed a guide for YERAC and ERIS to ensure their organisation in the future. Additionally, users were supported to reduce data at one of the European ALMA Regional Centres.
Three Technical Activities made our infrastructures more efficient and reliable. AETHRA developed state-of-the-art technologies for the mm/submm regime. Decisive steps were made in designing key elements of receivers and integrating them into high-performance focal plane arrays. BRAND-EVN responded to the critical demand for novel ultra-broad-band receiver frontend and backend systems for radio astronomy at cm wavelengths. RINGS delivered advanced calibration algorithms for radio astronomy facilities, which are characterised by a high-sensitivity, a large bandwidth and long interferometric baselines. The results were disseminated through peer-reviewed publications, conferences, training schools, and interaction with industry.
The Sustainability activity secured the long-term perspectives of European radio astronomy through re-defining the RadioNet collaboration. As part of this process, letters of intent were received from 20 of the partners.
RadioNet infrastructures benefited from being open, increasing their visibility and efficiency. Additionally, they operate public archives, and they maintain software capable of analysing the data.
Training will benefit society as a whole as the skills learned (big data, complex analysis and machine learning) can be applied within other industries. The training materials are publicly available. The support for CRAF made ground-based radio astronomy sustainable. Hardware developments will improve the capabilities of radio telescopes and are complementary to developments in digital and analogue electronics being driven by other markets.
Receiver arrays developed within AETHRA will be commissioned on single dish telescopes, for possible deployment on interferometers. This will improve the performance of existing and future mm/sub-mm telescopes. The BRAND-EVN developed prototype hardware and cutting-edge techniques; the BRAND receiver, suitable for up to 50 antennas, will create new market opportunities. This technology is relevant for other radio-astronomical and geodetic communities, as well as projects requiring expertise in broad-band feeds, HTSC filters, low-noise couplers and amplifiers. RINGS facilitated the data analysis from radio interferometers at 30 MHz to 1 THz in one publically available processing suite.
RadioNet has contributed to a sustained future for radio astronomy in Europe. It provided vast support for the increased collaboration between the operators and engineers, and the interaction and training of users in complex data systems. Finally, RadioNet paved the way to a Memorandum-of-Understanding-based consortium that will continue after the end of the project.
RadioNet flyer page 2
RadioNet Roll-up display
RadioNet flyer page 1
RadioNet Logo
Visibility of the EC support for the RadioNet infrastructures