The CTA group around David Berge at the University of Amsterdam received a NWO-M grant (http://www.nwo.nl/en/funding/our-funding-instruments/nwo/investment-grant-nwo-medium/index.html) worth 356k Euro to build the core of the Clock Distribution and Trigger time Stamping (CDTS) system, the precision timing backbone, for CTA. CTA, The Cherenkov Telescope Array (https://www.cta-observatory.org) is one of the major future facilities of the field of astroparticle physics and high-energy astrophysics, dedicated to exploring the high-energy universe with gamma rays. Planned to start full operation in the early 2020’s, it will address important scientific topics, such as the origin of cosmic rays and their interaction with their environment, the energetic output of accreting black holes and the existence of dark matter.
The video below is an animation of what the telescope is to look like when finished.
CTA will be an observatory with arrays of telescopes on two sites, one in Spain on the Canary Island of La Palma for the Northern hemisphere, one at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Paranal in Chile for the Southern hemisphere, with 100 and 20 telescopes in the South and North, respectively.
CTA employs the Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Technique to measure cosmic gamma rays by recording the 10-ns long Cherenkov light flashes emitted in air showers induced by these gamma rays in the Earth’s atmosphere. Precise nanosecond timing is therefore mandatory for CTA to correctly tag and identify these short light flashes in the various telescopes.
The CDTS system that dr. Berge is working on, including a common timing card in every telescope, is based on “White Rabbit” (http://www.ohwr.org/projects/white-rabbit/wiki). This is an extension of the Ethernet protocol that distributes timing signals with nanosecond precision in optical networks.