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RadioNet Report Summary

Project ID: 730562
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RadioNet (Advanced Radio Astronomy in Europe)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

RadioNet is a cooperation of 27 leading research institutions in Europe and beyond in the field of radio astronomy. These institutions operate world-leading radio astronomical infrastructures: telescopes, laboratories, computing facilities and archives. They also employ staff with the necessary skills and expertise for the technical and scientific exploitation of these facilities.

The scientific exploration of astrophysical phenomena in the radio sky requires full coverage of radio frequencies. This has been made possible by transnational access for European researchers to RadioNet complementary infrastructures. Due to the interconnections of their expertise and infrastructures, European radio astronomers have become extremely competitive in multi-messenger astronomy, as for example in studies of the event horizon of supermassive black holes or investigations of gravitational waves from energetic cosmic events.

The current RadioNet collaboration is successfully addressing the following main objectives:
• Offering access and user support to a complete set of key European radio astronomical research infrastructures
• Facilitating interaction among radio astronomy, industry and stakeholders through training and dissemination activities
• Upgrading the hardware and software of its radio infrastructures for the best scientific output
• Providing an overarching structure for the radio astronomical community in Europe and fostering its sustainability

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

RadioNet organizes and fosters Networking Activities (NAs), Transnational Access (TA) to its key infrastructures, and Joint Research Activities (JRAs) to make European radio astronomical research infrastructures better integrated and more competitive.

NAs combine and enhance the expertise of European scientists and technicians at the forefront of research and development. This will impact European radio astronomy scientifically and technically in the future. To date, RadioNet has supported 26 dissemination and 10 training events. In this reporting period 246 trainees (45% female) were trained in the use of the RadioNet infrastructures. CRAF, supported by RadioNet, has explained and defended the interests of radio astronomers to the agencies deciding on the distribution of radio frequencies (CEPT and ITU).

More than 680 European users used, free of charge, the Trans-national access programme to the RadioNet infrastructures, performing 142 scientific projects with a total observing time exceeding 2800 hours. Thus the TA facilities have already delivered 65% of the contracted access. This is essential for promoting the use of these facilities on a larger scale. Outstanding TA results include:
• EVN together with the Russian RadioAstron orbiting antenna achieved the highest angular resolutions necessary to study the innermost regions of jets emanating from Active Galactic Nuclei.
• e-MERLIN was an important part of a multi-messenger investigation of the electromagnetic counterpart of the Gravitational Wave source GW/GRB170817a, thought to be a neutron star merger, suggesting the presence of a relativistic jet in this and large fraction of similar sources.
• NOEMA was essential for monitoring an infrared and radio out-burst triggered by an accretion event onto the massive S255 NIR3 star, leading to the conclusion that the radio emission is caused by an expanding thermal jet with low degree of ionization.
• IRAM-30m investigated star formation occurring in dense filaments of gas in the Integral Shaped Filament of Orion; a unified star-forming scenario for high and low mass stars based on the initial concentration of such bundles of fibers was proposed.
• LOFAR observed pulsars, to derive the physical conditions in our Galaxy.
• The 100m Effelsberg telescope investigated neutral hydrogen in ultra-diffuse galaxies, in order to explain the formation of these poorly studied objects; a formation model based on feedback-driven outflows is favoured.
• APEX observed methanol in the gas phase towards a star-forming region where there are also observations of methanol in the solid phase, in order to understand the desorption of methanol from dust grains.

Three JRAs make European research infrastructures more efficient and reliable. AETHRA aims at developing and exploiting state-of-the-art technologies for receivers in different bands in the millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelength regime. Important steps in the design/optimization of detectors using different technologies were made, showing better noise performance and allowing the manufacture of multi-pixel receivers. BRAND EVN will develop and build a broadband receiver to be adapted to EVN antennas. A feasibility study was made, and significant progress in design and construction of frontend and backends could be achieved. RINGS will deliver advanced calibration algorithms for the next generation of radio astronomy facilities, characterized by a high-sensitivity, a large bandwidth and long interferometric baselines. The non-dispersive delay-fitting algorithms was delivered and made available to the community.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"Scientific results and teaching material from RadioNet dissemination and training events are stored on the web/wiki pages. The defined set of training events addressing user needs will assure the future exploitation of the infrastructures. Thus an impact on science is expected. Greater technical staff mobility will result in a reduction of the ""brain drain"" from the technical knowledge at observatories. The pressure from active spectrum users on frequency bands used by the radio astronomy community is ever increasing - the electromagnetic spectrum is a finite resource, and commercial expansion is incessant. RadioNet will ensure that these activities do not encroach on the scientific observations made at radio frequencies, by supporting CRAF interaction at international spectrum management meetings.

RadioNet partners aim to be more innovative; the planned hardware developments represent a major step in capabilities of radio telescope instrumentation and are complementary to developments in digital and analogue electronics being driven by other markets. AETHRA is improving existing and new technologies for mm/submm receivers, targeting significant improvements for receiver performances at those wavelengths. In particular, the developments focus on widening the Intermediate/Radio frequency receiver bandwidths and implementing large focal plane arrays of heterodyne receivers. The goal is to produce demonstrators of such arrays to be deployed in antennas for on-sky tests. BRAND-EVN is developing prototype hardware and techniques at the cutting edge technology. This represents a real contribution to enhancing innovation capacity. In particular, the BRAND receiver, suitable for up to 50 antennas, will create new market opportunities and enhance wide-bandwidth data acquisition. The expected impact of RINGS will ensure that for the first time all the capabilities required to analyse data from radio interferometers at both high and low frequencies will exist in the same processing suite. This is already being achieved. Essential functionality is now available in the processing suite CASA/CASACORE. Outside radio astronomy, there are potential markets for the robust solver algorithms operating at a low signal-to-noise ratio. In addition, the impact of RadioNet is substantial in paving the way towards a sustainable future for radio astronomy in Europe."

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