Work has started today (May 25th) on the construction of an optical fibre network which will connect five radio telescopes to the giant 76-m Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory, operated by The University of Manchester in rural Cheshire, allowing it to operate with vastly improved sensitivity.
The 76-m Lovell Telescope
This e-MERLIN network will operate as single radio telescope spanning 217 km, with unprecedented sensitivity provided by the enormous data rates carried by the optical fibres. The combination of high resolution due to the large separations and high sensitivity will make e-MERLIN a world-leading astronomical facility, continuing the pioneering spirit established by Sir Bernard Lovell over 50 years ago, and maintaining Jodrell Bank at the forefront of astronomical research well into the 21st century.
The network will use trunk fibres largely provided by Global Crossing UK with new fibre links from each telescope to the trunks being constructed by Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe. The total data rate carried by the network will be a continuous and sustained 150 Gb/s - about five times the total UK public internet traffic. Finding a way to provide a data network of this capacity on a national scale, reaching out to rural telescope sites, within the very limited project budget has been the largest challenge facing the e-MERLIN project. Astronomers and engineers at Jodrell Bank are delighted to have found a technical and commercial solution which meets their needs.
Julia Maddock | PPARC
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