The support for JANET and other projects is part of a £158 million investment package in e-infrastructure announced today (1 December 2011) by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. The investment aims to power growth and innovation and to provide UK scientists and businesses with access to the most sophisticated technology keeping them at the cutting edge of research and development.
JANET is funded by the UK higher education funding bodies, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Department for Employment and Learning – Northern Ireland (DELNI).
For full details of the Government's e-infrastructure investment see the press release from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
The LOFAR radio observatory at Chilbolton in Hampshire combined with stations in the Netherlands, France and Germany takes images of the bright radio quasar 3C196, located in a galaxy so distant that light takes 6.9 billion years to reach the Earth. In visible light, even through the Hubble Space Telescope, 3C196 is a single point: the combined international stations of LOFAR have already been able to reveal more structure.
To give an idea of the quantities of data that must be processed, the field of view that can be captured by LOFAR covers an area of the sky equivalent to 1000 full moons, and objects are studied with a resolution as fine as 0.2 arcseconds, close to 1/10000 of a full moon's diameter. Images from the many stations involved are combined in real time at the University of Groningen to produce the final picture. The rapid and reliable transmission of data is therefore crucial to the operation. Through an international 10Gbit/s lightpath set up by JANET(UK) they are able to process all the images and data.
It is expected that just the Chilbolton site will be producing seven petabytes of raw data every year once LOFAR is fully operational. As well as the sheer quantities of astronomical data that must be passed on, because LOFAR does not rotate like a conventional radio telescope and must be configured electronically to study chosen areas of the sky, further vast amounts of computing power are required to keep its antennae synchronised to each other across countries so that the data gathered can be coordinated and formed into meaningful images. Through the JANET network this data can travel down the JANET link without interference.