Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

New High-Speed Data Link To Chilean Observatories
by Staff Writers
Santiago, Chile (SPX) Nov 05, 2010

EVALSO (Enabling Virtual Access to Latin American Southern Observatories) is a new communications infrastructure supporting ESO's Paranal Observatory. The construction of the main 100km long data cable (pictured) took place in the harsh conditions of the Atacama Desert. This new link gives ESO's Paranal Observatory, and Ruhr-Universitat Bochum's Cerro Armazones Observatory a high-capacity connection to send observational data back to Europe. Credit: ESO

Stretching 100 kilometers (60 miles) through Chile's harsh Atacama Desert, a newly inaugurated data cable is creating new opportunities at ESO's Paranal Observatory and the Observatorio Cerro Armazones. Connecting these facilities to the main Latin American scientific data backbone completes the last gap in the high-speed link between the observatories and Europe.

This new cable is part of the EVALSO (Enabling Virtual Access to Latin American Southern Observatories) project [1], a European Commission FP7 [2] co-funded program coordinated by the University of Trieste that includes ESO, Observatorio Cerro Armazones (OCA, part of Ruhr-Universitat Bochum), the Chilean academic network REUNA and other organizations.

As well as the cable itself, the EVALSO project involves buying capacity on existing infrastructure to complete a high-bandwidth connection from the Paranal area to ESO's headquarters near Munich, Germany.

Project coordinator Fernando Liello said: "This project has been an excellent collaboration between the consortium members. As well as giving a fast connection to the two observatories, it brings wider benefits to the academic communities both in Europe and Latin America."

The sites of Paranal and Armazones are ideal for astronomical observation due to their high altitude, clear skies and remoteness from light pollution. But their location means they are far from any pre-existing communications infrastructure, which until now has left them dependent on a microwave link to send scientific data back to a base station near Antofagasta.

Telescopes at ESO's Paranal observatory produce well over 100 gigabytes of data per night, equivalent to more than 20 DVDs, even after compressing the files. While the existing link is sufficient to carry the data from the current generation of instruments at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), it does not have the bandwidth to handle data from the VISTA telescope (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy,), or for the new generation of VLT instruments coming online in the next few years.

This means that for much of the data coming from Paranal, the only practical way to send it to ESO Headquarters has been to save it onto hard drives and send these by airmail. This can mean a wait of days or even weeks before observations from VISTA are ready for analysis.

Even with this careful rationing of the connection and sophisticated data management to use the connection as efficiently as possible, the link can get saturated at peak times. While this causes no major problems at present, it indicates that the link is reaching capacity.

ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw said: "ESO's observatory at Paranal is growing, with new telescopes and instruments coming online. Our world-class scientific observatories need state-of-the-art infrastructure."

In the place of the existing connection, which has a limit of 16 megabits/s (similar to home ADSL broadband), EVALSO will provide a much faster 10 gigabits/s link - a speed fast enough to transfer an entire DVD movie in a matter of seconds [3].

Mario Campolargo, Director, Emerging Technologies and Infrastructures at the European Commission, said: "It is strategically important that the community of astronomers of Europe gets the best access possible to the ESO observatories: this is one of the reasons why the European Union supports the deployment of regional e-infrastructures for science in Latin America and interlinks them with GEANT [4] and other EU e-infrastructures."

The dramatic increase in bandwidth will allow increased use of Paranal's data from a distance, in real-time. It will allow easier monitoring of the VISTA telescope's performance, and quicker access to VLT data, increasing the responsiveness of quality control.

And with the expanded bandwidth, new opportunities will open up, such as astronomers and technicians taking part in meetings via high-definition videoconferencing without having to travel to Chile.

Moreover, looking forward, the new link will provide enough bandwidth to keep up with the ever-growing volumes of information from Paranal and Armazones in future years, as new and bandwidth-intensive instruments come into use.

Immediate remote access to data at a distant location is not just about saving money and making the observatory's work more efficient. For unexpected and unpredictable events, such as gamma-ray bursts, there is often not enough time for astronomers to travel to observatories, and EVALSO will give experts a chance to work remotely on these events almost as if they were at the observatory.

[1] EVALSO is funded under the European Commission FP7 and is a partnership among Universita degli Studi di Trieste (Italy), ESO, Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (Germany), Consortium GARR (Gestione Ampliamento Rete Ricerca) (Italy), Universiteit Leiden (Netherlands), Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (Italy), Queen Mary, University of London (UK), Cooperacion LatinoAmericana de Redes Avanzasas (CLARA) (Uruguay), and Red Universitaria Nacional (REUNA) (Chile).

[2] FP7 (the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development) is the European Union's main instrument for funding research. Its aim is to make, or keep, the EU as a world leader in its priority areas in science and technology.

[3] The newly laid cable has a bandwidth of 10 gigabits/s. The entire network infrastructure between Paranal to ESO HQ in Germany is theoretically capable of transferring data at a maximum of 1 gigabit/s.

[4] GEANT is a pan-European data network dedicated to the research and education community. It connects 40 million users across 40 countries.


Related Links
EVALSO project
The latest information about the Commercial Satellite Industry

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

An International Vision For Space Exploration
Paris, France (ESA) Oct 25, 2010
A shared vision for space exploration came into sharper focus this week when European ministers, space executives and international representatives met to discuss their ambitions for future space exploration. Given its importance, more than 150 people attended the second International Conference on Space Exploration from 32 countries, including eight countries from outside Europe. Most of ... read more

New type of moon rock identified

Moon Express Enters $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE Competition

Dead Spacecraft Walking

Surviving Lunar Dangers

Function Analysis Drives The Development Of A Concept Mars Rover

Mars Rovers Mission Using Cloud Computing

Mars Volcanic Deposit Tells Of Warm And Wet Environment

Opportunity Keeps On Driving To Endeavour Crater

Astronaut Ernst Messerschmid Returns To Spacelab

Netherlands stops Shell's CO2 storage project

The Fading Final Frontier

Astronauts4Hire Offers Limited Time High Profile Sponsorship Special

China launching spacecraft at record rate

China Goes To Mars

China says manned space station possible around 2020

China Kicks Off Manned Space Station Program

Work On ISS Could Continue Until 2020

Progress Docks On Auto

Cargo vessel links up with ISS after auto-docking problem

NASA Seeks More Proposals On Commercial Crew Development

Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne Engine Helps Boost 350th Launch Of A Delta Vehicle

Azerbaijan signs deal with Arianespace to launch satellite

Boeing Launches Fourth Earth-Observation Satellite For Italy

Arianespace To Launch Azerbaijan's First Satellite

e2v To Develop Image Sensors For PLATO Exoplanet Mission

Solar Systems Like Ours May Be Common

Astronomer Greg Laughlin To Talk About Earth-Like Planets

NASA Survey Suggests Earth-Sized Planets are Common

NIST Backs Proposal For A Revamped System Of Measurement Units

All Systems Are Nominal Aboard Bsat-3b Satellite

Software Brings Facial-Recognition Technology To Mobile Phones

From Touchpad To Thought-Pad

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement