At the ASA (Astronomical Society of Australia) annual science meeting on July 11, the award for the 2019 Peter McGregor Prize was given to the DiFX Collaboration of which James M. Anderson from GFZ section Space Geodetic Techniques is a member. The Peter McGregor Prize is awarded “in recognition of exceptional achievement or innovation in astronomical instrumentation”. It is made to an individual or team for the design, invention or improvement of astronomical instrumentation and associated software techniques.
The Distributed FX (DiFX) correlator developed and maintained by the DiFX collaboration is an open-source software for very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), an observation technique used to study celestial objects by radio astronomers and geodesists. Researchers and developers around the world contribute to this project, with modifications being continually made to improve the functionality and usability of the software, in addition to keeping up with changes in the hardware systems of the VLBI antennas.
The DiFX software package is used by most of the VLBI correlators around the world, including the International VLBI Service for Geodesy & Astrometry (IVS) official correlator centres in Bonn, Germany, Shanghai, China, Washington DC, United States, and Haystack, United States. It was also used to produce the first image of a black hole published in April 2019. DiFX is used every day by VLBI geodesists around the world in order to monitor things like Earth orientation parameters, which are needed, for example, for satellite positioning and navigation systems. At the GFZ, the software is used mainly for research and development purposes.
James M. Anderson has been involved in DiFX development for many years. For example, he contributed in modifying the software to enable correlation of observations by Earth-orbiting spacecraft antennas for the RadioAstron mission, led by the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, Russia. (ph)