The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)/Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), and the University of New Mexico (UNM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore collaborations in support of future U.S. radio astronomy initiatives.
The MOU outlines the shared interests of AUI/NRAO and UNM in increasing professional collaborations amongst scientific and engineering staff through the sharing of facilities and computing resources. The joint effort will actively identify future collaborations related to the next-generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).
“Spread across the New Mexico landscape is one of the most iconic and consequential scientific instruments of the world, the Very Large Array. UNM is excited to be working with NRAO on the next generation of this facility, which will probe the universe and reveal new insights about the evolution of galaxies and the formation of terrestrial planets. This work will help to keep our state and our University at the forefront of human understanding of the Universe in which we live,” said James Holloway, UNM provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
The ngVLA, currently in its design phase thanks to an award from the National Science Foundation, will improve upon the sensitivity and spatial resolution of the Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the VLBA by more than an order of magnitude. “A collaboration with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a fundamental opportunity for our researchers to innovate and design together critical infrastructure needs that will impact people for generations to come. UNM has a notable track record when it comes to the advancement of space research and science and the involvement of our community to share in our newest innovations and discoveries,” said Ellen Fisher, vice president for research at UNM.
“Spread across the New Mexico landscape is one of the most iconic and consequential scientific instruments of the world, the Very Large Array. UNM is excited to be working with NRAO on the next generation of this facility, which will probe the universe and reveal new insights about the evolution of galaxies and the formation of terrestrial planets." – James Holloway, UNM provost and executive vice president for academic affairs
The Astro2020 Decadal Survey Report prioritized the ngVLA as a major ground-based facility whose construction should begin this decade. Building on the legacy of the VLA, VLBA, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the ngVLA will become the next U.S. flagship radio telescope and ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in radio astronomy. “This partnership with NRAO to support the next generation Very Large Array could bring more than 200 of the world's best radio astronomers and engineers to the UNM campus, resulting in unparalleled education and training opportunities for UNM’s astronomy students and hundreds of new, high-paying jobs in New Mexico,” said Chris Lippitt, associate dean for research at the UNM College of Arts & Sciences.
Through this partnership, NRAO and UNM will explore the potential of establishing the UNM College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Physics & Astronomy as a host site for the ngVLA Data Processing and Science Operations Center. This site will foster close collaboration between NRAO and UNM researchers, and will also provide UNM students the opportunity to work closely with and learn from the world-class radio astronomers and engineers at AUI/ NRAO. “This memorandum of understanding between NRAO and UNM strengthens our existing partnership, is the foundation for significant cooperative work on the ngVLA, and will help ensure that the state of New Mexico remains at the center of the radio astronomy world,” said Eric Murphy, the Project Scientist for ngVLA. “We look forward to an exciting future ahead with UNM.”
This partnership is directly aligned with UNM’s 2040 goal to “Advance New Mexico” by being an economic driver for the state of New Mexico, but will also advance future leaders in radio astronomy, data science, high performance computing, and engineering. The MOU also explores the potential for collaboration between UNM and AUI/NRAO to support the computational infrastructure needs for the VLBA Back End Retrofit (VBER) project. The VBER project aims to upgrade critical end-of-life electronics and improve capabilities at all 10 VLBA antenna sites.
For more information, contact - AUI/NRAO: Technical - Eric Murphy, ngVLA project scientist, NRAO, email@example.com; Administrative - Richard Sakshaug, Contracts and Procurement Manager, NRAO, firstname.lastname@example.org; Technical - Christopher D. Lippitt, UNM associate dean for research, email@example.com. Administrative - Ellen Fisher, UNM vice president for research, firstname.lastname@example.org.