Goonhilly - re-purposing of communications antennas for radio astronomy

Oxford is part of a consortium of universities helping to develop the Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall for use in radio astronomy.

Oxford is a member of the Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy (CUGA), a consortium of Universities working with Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd (GES) to develop some of the exisiting communications antennas for astronomical research, training and outreach. The Experimental Radio Cosmology Group in Oxford is leading the development of a new C-Band radio receiver for the Goonhilly-3 antenna for use in e-Merlin and as a standalone telescope.

Goonhilly - CUGA banner

The left panel above shows Goonhilly Earth Station with its three obvious large (30-m class) antennae. CUGA is proposing to oversee the introduction of Goonhilly-1 (or "Arthur") into the e-MERLIN radio astronomy network at L-band and Goonhilly-3 (or "Guinevere") into e-MERLIN at C-band. Ironically, we do not propose to use Goonhilly-6 (or "Merlin", middle-left of site picture) with e-MERLIN, but our commercial partners will use this for Deep Space communications.

The introduction of Arthur or Guinevere (both 30-m class dishes) into e-MERLIN doubles the resolution of e-MERLIN as the distance ("baseline") between Jodrell Bank and Goonhilly is roughly twice that between Jodrell Bank and Cambridge. It also greatly improves the ability of e-MERLIN to image or survey objects at or below the celestial equator due to the improved "UV coverage". The benefits of this are quantified here. This opens up the possibility of joint observations with southern hemisphere high resolution facilities and ALMA in particular.

We also hope to introduce Goonhilly antennae into European and global "VLBI" (Very Long Baseline Interferometery) experiments such as the EVN. Ultimately we hope that signals from Goonhilly antennae can be combined with those from the core or cores of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Inside and outside of e-MERLIN, Goonhilly antennae will be involved in pathfinding science for the SKA. We will also encourage our commercial partner GES Ltd to help develop technological solutions for the SKA.

* CASE PhD Studentship available for 2014 *

Oxford have been awarded and STFC CASE studentship for a student to work alongside GES Ltd in developing new receiver systems for the Goonhilly telescopes. The receivers will be used both for radio astronomy and for commercial satellite communication applications. The CASE studentship gives the student an enhanced stipend compared to a normal STFC PhD studentship. The student will have supervisors both in Oxford and in GES Ltd, and will spend some time during their studentship based with GES Ltd.

For more information, see the full project description and Oxford Astrophysics Graduate Studies webpage.