Reaching for the sky with three gigabit per second network path

Data travelled across three continents

AARNet broke new ground yesterday when it provided a three gigabit per second direct network path from three Australian radio telescopes across to Europe.

For the first time ever, Australian researchers were able to provide European radio astronomers with real-time access to the Southern Hemisphere sky.

As part of the EXPReS project (EXpress Production Realtime eVLBI Service) which involves AARNet, the CSIRO's Australian Telescope National Facility and JiVE in the Netherlands, astronomers in Australia and Europe have been able to view Supernova SN1987a.

CSIRO research scientist, Tasso Tzioumis, said the supernova exploded 20 years ago in the Magellanic clouds which are 167,000 light years away.

"This is the first time we have been able to image this supernova in radio waves at such high resolution and sensitivity," he said.

"It is an exciting and valuable breakthrough for scientific communities in Australia and around the world to be able to connect over vast distances at such high speed."

Running from midnight on Sunday, October 7 to midday on Monday, October 8 October, the network connectivity operated flawlessly for 12 hours.

Tzioumis said the high resolution and sensitivity of these observations allowed detailed imaging of the supernova by scientific communities on both continents.

He said scientists are also using the data to explore the possibility of a pulsar at the heart of the supernova.

Data was transported from telescopes at Parkes, Narrabri and Coonabarabran in NSW at 512Mb per second in real-time to JiVE's super computer using the three AARNet lightpaths.

The JiVE correlator combined the signal from the three Australian telescopes to create an image of the supernova.

To get from Australia to the Netherlands, the data travelled across three continents via the Southern Cross Cable Network, across the Pacific Ocean via CENIC to Seattle, across Canada on the CANARIE network to Chicago, then across the Atlantic via SURFNet to the Netherlands onto JiVE.

AARNet CEO, Chris Hancock, said this takes the data on a journey of over 25,000km.

"This is a first for Europe and Australia in being able to demonstrate a high-speed international connection that allows true observations and analysis over an extended period of time; demonstrating the true power of the internet for science and research," he said.

"To simplify how much data this project processed in a short amount of time, the data transfer rate from each telescope would fill the hard drive of an average household PC every 15 minutes."

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