Açoriano Oriental
RAEGE project is Azorean contribution to the world

The Atlantic Network of Geodynamic and Space Stations (RAEGE), which includes two key geodetic stations in Santa Maria and Flores – and two others in Yebes and Gran Canaria, as a result of a memorandum of understanding signed in 2010 between the governments of the Azores and of Spain –, is one of the most valuable “contributions of the Azores to the world”, as it guarantees the supply of excellent data to the international scientific community.

RAEGE project is Azorean contribution to the world

Autor: Paulo Faustino

The RAEGE stations are called fundamental geodetic stations because they bring together a series of basic techniques in Geodesy – the science that aims to measure and accurately understand the shape of the planet, its spatial orientation and the earth's gravitational field. Those techniques require great precision and make use of space technology, using stars as reference points to study the Earth and its deformations.

This data survey results in knowledge in important domains, such as terrestrial inertial reference, which serves as a basis for positioning services such as Google Earth. But it also makes it possible to estimate the variation in the mean sea level, quantify the displacement of tectonic plates, measure the exact duration of day and night, study the Earth's atmosphere, and contribute, among other aspects, to the study of the effects caused by climate change.

Of the four stations in the RAEGE network, two are fully operational: the one in Santa Maria and the one in Yebes. Ten people currently work in the first one and contribute to the GGOS (Global Geodetic Observing System). This system aims to update, expand and maintain a global network of fundamental geodetic stations, which provide data for a better understanding of the Earth's dynamics and the planet's global changes. Therefore, it serves as a basis for decision-making in what concerns their long-term social impact.

The year 2020 is an important milestone for the RAEGE Station in Santa Maria, headed by João Ferreira, who holds a master’s in aerospace engineering and is deputy director of the RAEGE network. This is due to the installation of a new receiver in the 13.2 meter diameter radio telescope, as well as to deep structural repairs that allowed the station to resume, as of last May, the observations of the IVS international network (International VLBI Service for Astrometry and Geodesy).

In fact, the RAEGE project in the Azores – managed by the RAEGE Azores Association (RAEGE-Az), a private association established in 2017 between the Regional Government and SATA, – contributes, at country level, to the United Nations resolution (69/266) that calls on all member-states to actively contribute to the construction of a global geodetic framework for sustainable development.

As João Ferreira highlights, RAEGE-Az works with several partners, in different areas, as is the case, at regional level, of the Azores Seismovolcanic Surveillance and Information Center (CIVISA), by sending it real-time seismological data. But it is especially across borders that RAEGE's information gains particular relevance and projection. Not only in terms of the IVS, but also in terms of the EPOS (European Plate Observing System) & IGS (International GNSS Service) through data provided by the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) stations in Flores and Santa Maria, and the Geographical Institute of Spain, which processes and validates the gravimetric data collected in the latter.

Also in Santa Maria, there is an optical telescope that links the RAEGE station to the European space debris monitoring project.

Another project in which RAEGE-Azores is involved has to do with the installation of a satellite signal reception antenna for the study and monitoring of gamma-ray explosions in the deep universe, a project by the French and Chinese space agencies.

On the other hand, RAEGE-Az provides mentoring in the development of scientific projects and school initiatives and, with a view to informing and getting closer to the local community, intends to deepen “relevant research with interest for the Region”.

In line with this strategy, João Ferreira highlights the support given by RAEGE to the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences by providing on-site observation time for Radio Astronomy students from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. This support project also includes the universities of the Azores, Porto and Beira Interior, the Superior Institute of Engineering of Lisbon, the Collab for Geosciences and the Institute of Telecommunications.

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