Robert Beswick, University of Manchester
Working in tandem with DARA to develop Radio Astronomy in Africa
Starting at the beginning of 2017 a newly funded Horizon2020 EU infrastructure initiative, dubbed JUMPING JIVE (‘Joining up Users for Maximising the Profile, the Innovation and the Necessary Globalisation of JIVE’) will be teaming up with DARA to bring in European expertise and support for the development of Radio Astronomy in Africa. These two partner projects will build upon each other’s expertise to provide enhanced training and development thus maximising the impact of both projects.
The JUMPING JIVE project which brings together twelve leading European institutes from 8 different countries has been awarded nearly 3 million euro by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the EU for the next 4 years. The project is led by JIVE, the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC, located in Dwingeloo (the Netherlands), and commenced in December 2016.
Over the past decades, JIVE and the European VLBI Network (EVN) have built a strong tradition of innovation and pan-European collaboration in the field of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). With this technique, astronomers can use telescopes thousands of kilometres apart to study radio sources with extremely high resolution. Over the 23 years of its existence, JIVE has pushed the scientific capabilities of the EVN, and has become a centre of excellence in supporting scientists from around the world.
JUMPING JIVE is bringing together European and global experts to define the necessary scientific drivers and technical innovations required to enhance VLBI activities both in Europe and beyond. This programme provides resources for the integration of new telescopes into the existing network including those in Africa, expanding the functionality of the EVN correlator at JIVE, and the further development of operational interfaces and software. The JUMPING JIVE project aims to contribute towards a truly global VLBI facility - advancing radio astronomy, geodesy and space science applications of VLBI and establishing of new interface standards for global use. The programme includes substantial contributions to the preparation toward the integration of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) as a powerful additional element to the global VLBI network, via the appointment of a dedicated SKA-VLBI scientist to engage and interface between the SKA organisation and VLBI communities to lay the foundations for joint observations.
Importantly, JUMPING JIVE also supports the development of the African VLBI Network (AVN) and the work underway via the STFC Newton-fund DARA programme. This is an important endorsement from the EU of the value and importance of the work of the DARA programme. The WP9 of JUMPING JIVE, led by Beswick (Manchester), is working in very close collaboration with the DARA project to supply additional expertise and resources to the training and development activities. In particular JUMPING JIVE will provide access to the pool of technical VLBI operational expertise in many European institutes who have been pioneering VLBI operations over a many decades. This new EU-UK-African collaboration is providing an important framework for the development of the AVN and its future operations with the EVN and ultimately the SKA. The future formation of the AVN, via the refurbishment of ex-communication dishes along with new-build telescopes, is internationally recognised as a vital part of the world’s astronomy infrastructure and will boost the sensitivity and resolution of global VLBI networks, especially for targets in the Southern celestial hemisphere. The work of both JUMPING JIVE and DARA to develop the human resources in African countries is a vital step toward the realisation and sustainability of this goal.
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730884.