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Liverpool Telescope helps find source of high energy neutrinos 16 August 2018
Schematic layout of IceCube facility.
Diagram of IceCube layout. Click for larger version.

The Liverpool Telescope contributed to the multiwavelength follow-up campaign of the blazar TXS 0506+056, published last month in Science (IceCube Collaboration, Science, 2018, 361, 1378: arXiv:1807.08816). The campaign was prompted by the detection on 22 September 2017 of a neutrino with an energy of ~290 tera electron volts, by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole. The observatory consists of thousands of sensors buried in a cubic kilometre of Antarctic ice, designed to detect the Cherenkov radiation from charged particles.

The neutrino detection was consistent with the gamma-ray blazar TXS 0506+056, which was observed to be in a flaring state at the time. The extensive campaign which followed involved observations from across the electromagnetic spectrum, with the Liverpool Telescope contributing early spectra of the galaxy obtained with its SPRAT classification spectrograph.

The observation of a neutrino in spatial coincidence with a gamma-ray–emitting blazar during an active phase suggests that blazars are a source of high-energy neutrinos, and moreover this event marks the beginning of the era of neutrino astronomy, a 'multimessenger' method combining both electromagnetic and non-electromagnetic means of observation.

Previous detections of individual astrophysical sources of neutrinos are limited to the Sun and the famous supernova 1987A: the era of neutrino astronomy will hopefully reveal the sources of high energy cosmic rays in the Universe, since neutrinos, gamma-rays and cosmic rays should all be produced by the same physical processes.

Exploring new astronomical database technologies — a collaborative workshop between LJMU and Thailand 26 April 2018
Group shot
The ARI-NARIT joint development team. Left to right: Bovornpratch Vijarnwannaluk, Pathompong Butpan, Utane Sawangwit, Marco Lam, Andrzej Piascik, Chris Copperwheat, Robert Smith, Iain Steele.

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) recently hosted a 3-week Newton Fund collaboration workshop with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT). LJMU and NARIT both own and operate their own 2-metre class telescopes: LJMU's Liverpool Telescope, and NARIT's Thai National Observatory.

Both institutes developed a common interest in exploiting new technologies for data management and archiving. These new systems will be used for their existing telescope facilities, and also for LJMU's proposed 4-metre class New Robotic Telescope (commonly known as "Liverpool Telescope 2"), on which NARIT is collaborating.

The joint development team compared the feasibility of using PostgreSQL (PSQL) and Elasticsearch (ES) as the core engine of a new archive system for astronomical data. LJMU developers Dr Marco Lam and Dr Andrzej Piascik worked with Bovornpratch Vijarnwannaluk and Pathompong Butpan from NARIT, to compare the efficiency of an ES search engine to that of a conventional relational database.

In the final week, Dr Utane Sawangwit from NARIT also joined us to conclude the project. This entailed the production of a complete prototype web front end for the demonstrator archives. A poster paper describing the work was presented in the Software Session of the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science 2018. A joint research paper will also be presented at the June SPIE 2018 Astronomical Telescopes conference in Austin, Texas.

New Robotic Telescope workshop held in Liverpool 25 January 2018
NRT Workshop group photo
NRT Workshop group photo. Left to right: Marco Lam, Iain Steele, Robin Leatherbarrow, Abigail Lewis, Paulo Lisboa, Ian Baker, Adrian McGrath, Phil James, Suparerk Aukkaravittayapun, Chris Copperwheat, Saran Poshyachinda, Juan Cozar, Christophe Buisset, Helen Jermak, Thirasak Panyaphirawat, Apirat Prasit, Carlos M Gutierrez, Ahmed Al Shamma’a. Credit: Marco Lam.

On 18-19 January the Astrophysics Research Institute hosted LJMU's partners and prospective partners in the 4.0m New Robotic Telescope (NRT) project for a two-day workshop in Liverpool.

LJMU staff were joined by representatives from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, and by videolink the National Astronomical Observatory of China.

On the first day, following a tour of the Astrophysics Research Institute, the focus was on the new science the telescope will enable, with a series of presentations covering all of the major topics within the NRT science case. This was followed by a workshop dinner. As well as the delegates, the dinner was attended by Prof. Ahmed Al-Shamma'a, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology; and Prof. Robin Leatherbarrow, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research.

NRT Workshop meeting
The NRT Workshop meeting. Credit: Marco Lam.

On day two, the focus was on the new technologies needed to build the telescope. Each group presented an overview of their technical capabilities, and then a lively debate was held over the various parameters of the NRT design. The meeting concluded with a round table discussion on the building and formalising of the funding consortium. This was an extremely fruitful exercise, being the first time the partners and current prospective partners have come together to discuss a way forward for the project, rather than meeting individually.

With the Lead Engineer and Project Manager for the NRT joining the LT group, and further project office recruitments underway in both Liverpool and Spain, this is an exciting time for us all as we move closer towards realising the goal of building the world's largest robotic telescope!