e-MERLIN / VLBI National Radio Astronomy Facility

News and highlights

Recent news and science highlights from e-MERLIN, MERLIN and VLBI


10th May 2016

Deadline : Midnight (23:59 GMT) 26th May 2016

This is the third open round for e-MERLIN proposals, with observations scheduled for September 2016 onwards.

NEW: In Cycle-4 e-MERLIN will be offering new observing band capabilies at K-band (20-26GHz).

Please see Cycle-4 call for proposals and technical capabilities or email emerlin [at] jb.man.ac.uk if you have any questions about e-MERLIN Cycle 4 observing opportunities.

e-MERLIN Joins European VLBI Network

13th April 2016

In the latest call for proposals for observations using the European VLBI network (EVN) it was announced that it is possible to request that e-MERLIN outstation telescopes be included in the network. The EVN is an interferometric array of radio telescopes spread throughout Europe (and beyond, see image bot- tom left) that conducts high resolution radio astronomical observations of cosmic radio sources.

e-MERLIN is an array of seven radio telescopes operated by the University of Manchester based in the UK that consists of shorter baselines than VLBI and provides complementary resolution to allow larger scale structure of radio sources to be simultaneously investigated. This capability means that e-MERLIN occupies a unique posi- tion within the EVN.

The inclusion of the remote e-MERLIN antennas is now possible following recent software upgrades on the e- MERLIN correlator which can process the telescope sig- nals that are returned to the Observatory over the fibre network (at 30Gbit/s per telescope) into a form suitable for the EVN where the data rate is reduced to 1GBit/s total.

This means that EVN experiments can now include up to 4 of the e-MERLIN outstation telescopes in addition to either the Lovell or MK2 Telescopes at Jodrell Bank Ob- servatory, and the data can be delivered either live over the internet or sent later using hard disks.

Radio Astronomers see a black hole come to life

9th July 2015

42 million light years away, 20 million times the mass of the Sun, and coming back to life. A team of radio astronomers, led by Dr Megan Argo of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, are watching a previously dormant black hole wake up in a dramatic display as material falls on to it for the first time for perhaps millions of years. Dr Argo reported their work today (9 July) at the National Astronomy Meeting at Venue Cymru, in Llandudno, Wales. to read more

Astronomers See Pebbles Poised to Make Planets

6th July 2015

A team of astronomers led from St Andrews and Manchester universities today (6 July) announced the discovery of a ring of rocks circling a very young star. This is the first time these 'pebbles', thought to be a crucial link in building planets, have been detected. Dr Jane Greaves of the University of St Andrews presented the work at the National Astronomy Meeting at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Wales. to read more

Spectacular supernova's mysteries reveal

22nd August 2014

New research by a team of UK and European-based astronomers is helping to solve the mystery of what caused a spectacular supernova in a galaxy 11 million light years away, seen earlier this year.

The supernova, a giant explosion of a star and the closest one to the Earth in decades, was discovered earlier this year by chance at the University of London Observatory. These phenomena are extremely important to study because they provide key information about our universe, including how it is expanding and how galaxies evolve. to read more


Deadline : Midnight (23:59 GMT) 15th April 2014

This is the third open round for e-MERLIN proposals, with observations scheduled for September 2014 onwards.

Please see Cycle-2 call for proposals and technical capabilities or email emerlin [at] jb.man.ac.uk if you have any questions about e-MERLIN Cycle 2 observing opportunities.

Announcement of e-MERLIN data school and early science meeting

The e-MERLIN instrument is a high-resolution radio interferometer, capable of routine sub-arcsecond resolution imaging at centimetre wavelengths to sensitivity levels of a few microJy. Observations are competitively allocated by the Panel for the Allocation of Telescope Time, with a substantial proportion of time in the first few years being reserved for large Legacy Programmes. The science programme is wide-ranging and includes the study of the history of star-formation and black hole growth in galaxies, the physical processes which govern the formation of stars, the modes of activity in nearby galaxies, and the energetic processes in relativistic outflows from jets generated by black holes and compact objects.

e-MERLIN has now been in full operational mode for some months, and a meeting will be held in Manchester from 10-11 April 2014 to discuss early science, both from the Legacy projects and from PATT observations from Cycle 0 and the early part of the Cycle 1 allocations. Prior to that, on 20-21 January, there will be a two-day data school, the aim of which will be to help those unfamiliar with the techniques of radio interferometry to reduce e-MERLIN data, including the use of existing analysis pipelines provided by the observatory, in time to present results at the early science meeting.

Please see Meeting webpages for registration details and more information


Deadline : Midnight (23:59 GMT) 17th June 2013

The second open round for e-MERLIN proposals is planned for 2013, with observations scheduled for September 2013 onwards.

Please see Cycle-1 call for proposals and technical capabilities or email emerlin [at] jb.man.ac.uk if you have any questions about e-MERLIN Cycle 1 observing opportunities.

Mysterious hot spots observed in a cool red supergiant

25th April 2013

Full article

Astronomers have released a new image of the outer atmosphere of Betelgeuse one of the nearest red supergiants to Earth revealing the detailed structure of the matter being thrown off the star.

The new image, taken by the e-MERLIN radio telescope array operated from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, also shows regions of surprisingly hot gas in the star?s outer atmosphere and a cooler arc of gas weighing almost as much as the Earth.

K-band status and upgrades:

April 2013

Work is progressing on upgrading the eMERLIN K band receivers by replacing the low noise amplifiers (LNAs) with a new MMIC design. Current tests indicate that the new LNAs will deliver a more uniform and significantly lower system temperature across the band from about 19.9 GHz to 26 GHz while providing the full 2GHz per polarization eMERLIN bandwidth.

Initial telescope tests are currently expected towards the end of summer 2013, with the full system expected to be deployed on all e-MERLIN telescopes and available for Cycle-2 observations.

e-MERLIN reveals the structure of a new 'superluminal transient' source in M82

November 2012

Full article

Recent observations using the newly available e-MERLIN telescope have revealed the resolved structure of 'superluminal transient' radio source in M82. Results from these new observations, which have been obtained for the LeMMINGs e-MERLIN legacy project have recently been presented at a large international conference in Bordeaux, France.

M82 Supernova Remnant observed 
with e-MERLIN e-MERLIN C-band image of typical radio supernova remnant in M82. These observations were taken as part of the e-MERLIN LeMMINGs legacy programme. M82 transient observed with e-MERLIN and Global VLBI

The left image shows a high resolution Global VLBI image at 5GHz of the transient source in M82. The right-hand image show the same source observed with e-MERLIN in 2012. Whilst at lower resolution the sensitivity and imaging quality of e-MERLIN allows this source to be resolved in an east-west direction confirming the earlier MERLIN proper motion estimates of its expansion and the VLBI imaging. These e-MERLIN (and VLBI) observations are part of ongoing research under the e-MERLIN legacy project, LeMMINGs.

The boiling face of Betelgeuse

November 2012

e-MERLIN has resolved fine details on the face of Betelgeuse. These are the highest-resolution images at cm wavelengths which show the full extent of the radiio photosphere, 25 AU (125 milli-arcsec) in radius, 6 times the optical photosphere. The sensitivity afforded by 500 MHz bandwidth, centred on 5.75 GHz (5.2 cm), reveals an additional arc to the SW. This probably represents enhanced mass loss, also seen in the IR by Kervella et al. (2009, 2011). The mass loss mechanism for a massive star like Betelgeuse just entering the red supergiant phase is rather mysterious, as there is not enough dust close to the star for radiation pressure on grains to drive a wind. The average brightness temperature of the radio photosphere at 5-6 GHz is about 1200 K, but e-MERLIN resolved two hotspots at 4000-5000 K. This is higher than the peak temperature of the optical photosphere (3600 K). The hot spots could be due to Betelgeuse's patchy chromosphere which is known to have a low filling factor (Harper et al. 2006), or to convection or pulsation shocks. Further work will identify which mechanism is responsible and the relationship with processes which could eject clumps of matter from the stellar surface to form the wind.

Betelgeuse observed with e-MERLIN

These results will be presented in a forthcoming publication and at the Betelgeuse Workshop 2012
The observations were made by A. M. S. Richards, R.J. Davis, S.T. Garrington, I. McDonald (University of Manchester), S. Etoka (University of Manchester and Hamburger Sternwarte), L. Decin (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), J. J. Lim (University of Hong Kong and Academia Sinica) and Markus Wittkowski (ESO).

e-MERLIN's deep radio survey of the Hubble Deep Field: First results

27 Mar 2012

27th March 2012: e-MERLIN's deep radio survey of the Hubble Deep Field: First results

A team of astronomers at Jodrell Bank Observatory have begun the deepest ever high-resolution radio imaging of the region around the Hubble Deep Field (HDF), the images originally captured by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in the mid 1990s. The HDF led to the discovery of numerous galaxies billions of light years distant and provided direct visual evidence of the evolution of the Universe. First results from the new imaging, which uses observations from the UK's newly upgraded e-MERLIN radio telescope array together with the EVLA radio array based in New Mexico, show galaxies some 7 billion light years away in unprecedented detail. Graduate student Nick Wrigley will present the new results at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester on 27 March 2012.

To read the full press release.

e-MERLIN Cycle-0 online simulator tool

12 Jan 2012

12th January 2012: e-MERLIN call for proposals Cycle-0 (semester 2012A)

A new web-based simulator designed to assist in proposal preparation for e-MERLIN, cycle-0 and beyond is now available at http://www.e-merlin.ac.uk/observe/eMERLINost.html

This easy to use simulator tool allows sensitivities, uv-coverages and simulated images to be produced to aid with all forms of e-MERLIN proposals.

e-MERLIN Cycle-0 (semester 12A) proposal submission tool is open

10 Jan 2012

10th January 2012: e-MERLIN call for proposals Cycle-0 (semester 2012A)

e-MERLIN is now open to proposals from the international astronomical community on the basis of scientific merit alone. Proposals are competitively peer-reviewed under standard STFC rules by the PATT e-MERLIN Time allocation Committee

The e-MERLIN proposal submission tool Northstar is now open for proposal submissions for Cycle-0

Proposal deadline = Midnight (23:59GMT) 26th January 2012

5 Jan 2012

5th January 2012: A boost for European Radio Astronomy

A boost for European Radio Astronomy

The European astronomy collaboration RadioNet has been granted 9.5 million Euros by the European Commission to fund its latest program, RadioNet3, for the years 2012 to 2015. This not only continues the two preceding European projects, but also takes a leap forward to include ALMA, as well as a number of pathfinder pro grams for the SKA. Read the full press release at the MPIfR site.

10 Jan 2012

10th January 2012: e-MERLIN call for proposals Cycle-0 (semester 2012A)

e-MERLIN announces first open call for proposals

12 Dec 2011

12th December 2011: e-MERLIN call for proposals Cycle-0 (semester 2012A)

e-MERLIN is now open to proposals from the international astronomical community on the basis of scientific merit alone. Proposals are competitively peer-reviewed under standard STFC rules by the PATT e-MERLIN Time allocation Committee. During the first 5 semesters of e-MERLIN operations ~50% of observing time has been allocated to 12 large legacy projects and most of the remaining time will be allocated via PATT to standard proposals solicited prior to each observing semester. e-MERLIN provides high resolution (40-150mas) and high sensitivity (~6-12 uJy in this cycle 0) imaging at cm wavelengths as well as polarimetry, spectroscopy and astrometry. Shared-risk 'Cycle-0' observations will start in February 2012, with some limitations in observing capabilities.

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Black holes and warped space: New UK telescope shows off first images

9 Dec 2010

9th December 2010: Black holes and warped space: New UK telescope shows off first images

This dramatic image is the first to be produced by e-MERLIN, a powerful new array of radio telescopes linked across the UK.

Spearheaded by the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the e-MERLIN telescope will allow astronomers to address key questions relating to the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets.

To demonstrate its capabilities, University of Manchester astronomers turned the new telescope array toward the "Double Quasar". This enigmatic object, first discovered by Jodrell Bank, is a famous example of Einstein's theory of gravity in action.

The new image shows how the light from a quasar billions of light years away is bent around a foreground galaxy by the curvature of space. This light has been travelling for 9 billion years before it reached the Earth. The quasar is a galaxy powered by a super-massive black hole, leading to the ejection of jets of matter moving at almost the speed of light - one of which can be seen arcing to the left in this new e-MERLIN image.

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Double Quasar

( ..more images available here..)

This is a composite of the new e-MERLIN radio image of the Double Quasar and an earlier Hubble Space Telescope (HST) optical image. One of the le nsed quasar core images is visible at lower right. The radio emission generated by the black hole as seen with e-MERLIN is visible as the compact bright region superimposed on the (yellow-green) optical emission seen by HST. The radio jet, moving at speeds approaching that of light, is see n in the e-MERLIN image arcing away from the black hole towards the upper left. The jet shows several regions of enhanced brightness before it en ds in a hotspot where it is ploughing through the tenuous matter filling the space around the quasar.
The e-MERLIN image is shown in false-colour with a colour table ranging from blue through red to white, where the colours represent the bri ghtness of the radio emission. The HST image is made from WFPC2 images through two filters: the F555W filter (V-band) is coloured green and the F 814W filter (I-band) is coloured red.
Credit: Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester

17th February 2010: MERLIN science press release
A team of astronomers, led by Dr. Wouter Vlemmings at Bonn University, has used the MERLIN radio telescope network centred on the Jodrell Bank Observatory to show that magnetic fields play an important role during the birth of massive stars. Magnetic fields are already known to strongly influence the formation of lower-mass stars like our Sun. This new study reveals that the way in which high-mass and low-mass stars form may be more similar than previously suspected. The scientists report their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. ( ..read more..)

1 January 2010: e-MERLIN commissioning has continued over the holiday season. We observed the gravitational lens system B1608+656 in order to test the data flow from the 3 antennas currently providing digital datastreams (Pickmere, Mk2, and Darnhall), via the correlator, into a format suitable for the AIPS data reduction package. The compact quasars J2136+006 & J0555+398, with flux densities assigned by near simultaneous observations of the resolved flux density calibration source 3C286 were used to set the amplitude scale and correct the phases across the bandpass. The image below was produced by self-calibration of the target data. B1608+656 is a well-known gravitaionally-lensed source consisting of 4 components, used to verify that we obtain geometrically correct multiple-component images with the expected flux density ratios.

The gravitational lens system B1608+656 imaged using 3 antennas and a single 128-MHz sub-band of e-MERLIN (approximately 5 hr of data, taken 15th December 2009).
The components are point sources at this resolution; it is not possible to image extended emission correctly with only 3 antennas.
The crosses show that the new data are consistent with the positions of the lensed components taken from MERLIN archive data observed in 1995.
The peak flux density at 4.9 GHz was 39 mJy in 1995 and 25 mJy in 2001, so the present recorded peak of 13 mJy at 6.7 GHz is consistent with a continued decline in flux density.


The e-MERLIN data used to image B1608+656
The calibrated visibility amplitudes and phases are shown in blue. The Fourier transform of the image Clean Components is shown in violet, demonstrating a good fit between data and model.


Data collected at 6.7 GHz on B1608+656 within a week of the e-MERLIN run with the original MERLIN datastream configuration (15 MHz bandwidth per polarization) through the old MERLIN correlator.
The calibrated visibility amplitudes and phases for the hour-angle range observed with e-MERLIN are again shown in blue & the Fourier transform of the image Clean Components shown in violet for the Darnhall-Mk2 baseline (with old MERLIN the baseline is defined in the opposite sense so the phase data are reversed with respect to e-MERLIN). Note that the e-MERLIN data on this baseline have 3 times better signal to noise with just a single sub-band as compared with the old merlin data.


16th December 2009: Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and The University of Manchester will be hosting the 10th EVN Symposium and Users meeting between 20-24th September 2010.
(... to read more)

15th December 2009:Over the last few months we have been working on commissioning and debugging the correlator configuration software. Alongside this work we have been retro-fitting updates and developments to the telescope timing and digitisation hardware, and implementing the new e-MERLIN local oscillator systems. We have been testing these updates and developments using 3 e-MERLIN antennas (Mk2, Pickmere, and Darnhall). Last weekend we observed a bright point source calibrator in a single IF containing 1024 frequency channels over a total bandwidth of 128MHz at 6.1984GHz. The data have been exported to the AIPS software analysis suite via FITS IDI and calibrated with standard routines (amplitude, phase and bandpass corrections have been applied). Sample plots of corrected amplitudes and phases on the three baselines between Mk2, Pickmere, and Darnhall are shown below. At present, test observations over 4 adjacent sub-bands are being made with a total bandwidth of 512MHz (over 30 times the bandwidth available for original MERLIN, and a quarter of e-MERLIN's final bandwidth).

Digital signals from a 4th antenna (Knockin) are expected to be correlated before the end of the month. Additional correlator hardware will be added early in 2010 which will permit the addition of the remaining e-MERLIN antennas and the extension of the maximum correlation bandwidth to 2GHz in each hand of polarization as set down in the e-MERLIN specification.

Amplitudes and Phases for a single sub-band of e-MERLIN data (data taken 11th December 2009)
Target source: J2136+006
Pink and turquoise - raw uncalibrated amplitudes and phases respectively
Bright red/green: amplitude and phase with the delay, rate, bandpass, phase and amplitude calibrations applied. Note the scatter on the calibrated data is smaller than the symbol size.

e-MERLIN amplitudes and phases

Calibrated Amplitudes and Phases as shown above but rescaled (data taken 11th December 2009).
Target source: J2136+006
Bright red/green: amplitude and phase with the delay, rate, bandpass, phase and amplitude calibrations applied.

e-MERLIN amplitudes and phases
First fringes achieved

24th April 2009: Today e-MERLIN saw first fringes on the 10-km baseline between the Mk2 and Pickmere telescopes (... read more)

UK 'superscope' gets first signals from space

20th April 2009: e-MERLIN, a super-powerful new radio telescope network - which will allow astronomers to carry out three years worth of observations in a single day - has received its first signals from space at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank. (... read more)

Jodrell Bank to help star gazers travel 'Around the World in 80 Telescopes'

2nd April 2009: Scientists at Jodrell Bank are to be at the heart of a global astronomy marathon. 'Around the World in 80 Telescopes' is a 24-hour live video web-cast that will enable star-gazers to see what is happening at observatories around the world. ( ... read more)

European VLBI Network to participate in "100 Hours of Astronomy" with live webcast and e-VLBI observations
23rd March 2009: The European VLBI Network (EVN) will showcase the e-VLBI astronomical technique in the "100 Hours of Astronomy" with a live webcast on Friday 3 April and e-VLBI observations on Friday 3 April and Sunday 5 April. "The 100 Hours of Astronomy" is a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy. (... read more )

Radio-astronomers conduct marathon observation with world-sized telescope

13 January 2009: 17 radio telescopes around the world will conduct a nearly continuous 33-hour observation as part of a demonstration at the opening ceremony for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 in Paris 15-16 January. ( ... read more and here) )

Marathon e-VLBI images, educational e-VLBI Web site and Virtual Radio Interferometer now available online. A "movie" of the sequential, automatically-generated images and three hand-crafted images (image 1, image 2, image 3) of the target source J0204+1514, observed during the "marathon" e-VLBI observation 15-16 January, are now available. This observation was demonstrated live during the International Year of Astronomy Opening Ceremony along with an educational web site about e-VLBI and Virtual Radio Interferometer, both of which are also available online.