Charlottesville, Virginia - January 27 - 28, 2011
The scientific opportunities with the VLBA are stronger than ever. The recent implementation of the DiFX correlator provides a practical capability for wide field imaging, including sensitivity upgrades which now allow data rates up to 512 Mbps, soon to be extended to 2 Gbps in 2011, along with substantially increased recording media obtained through a recent NSF MRI grant. The NRAO will also be upgrading the C-band receivers to cover the frequency range 4-8 GHz by the end of 2011. In addition, work is progressing on phasing the EVLA for VLBI observations. All these improvements promise exciting, new, scientific capabilities for the VLBA, especially in combination with the GBT and the phased EVLA, within the next year.
The NSF and the USNO have recently concluded an agreement by which the USNO will help to support the VLBA operations in order to carry out their daily UT1 measurements. In addition, the MPIfR is providing substantial support for VLBA operations, and Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of New Mexico, and UNAM in Mexico have all contributed to the acquisition of additional recording media. The VLBA is also receiving some support from the European RadioNet under the Trans-National Access program. As a result of such generous support, we expect that NRAO will continue to operate the VLBA for at least the next five years.
However, even with these additional resources and the pending upgrades, the NRAO will not be able to continue to operate the VLBA in the traditional open PI proposal-driven manner as before. NRAO has examined various models to reduce the operating cost of the VLBA and have concluded that we will need to adopt an operational model for the VLBA aimed primarily at designated or key science projects. Moreover, the future availability of the VLBA will likely include recognition of those who have contributed to the operation of the VLBA as well as suspending the operation of some VLBA antennas.
The Workshop on the Future of the VLBA is intended to bring together the scientists leading the major large programs with those developing new techniques and capabilities and those responsible for other VLBI facilities to arrive at a 5-year consensus roadmap for the operation of the VLBA in the era of international VLBI.