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SKA pathfinder LOFAR telescope open for business

13 March 2013, Dwingeloo, the Netherlands – On Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 March, one hundred astronomers from all over the world will travel to the town of Dalfsen in the Netherlands for a 2-day workshop about the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT), designed and built by ASTRON. Now that the first fully operational observing cycle has started and the telescope is open to the whole astronomical community, LOFAR is officially open for business.

The LOFAR telescope is an important scientific and technological pathfinder for the world’s largest radio telescope – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). It owes its strength to revolutionary new techniques and software for the processing of unprecedented large data streams from an extensive network of relatively simple radio receivers, concentrated in the north-east of the Netherlands and spread over Germany, France, the UK and Sweden.

Eighteen months ago, during the commissioning and test phase of LOFAR, the first LOFAR science workshop was held, also in Dalfsen. Since then, new antenna stations have been added to the array and the sensitivity of the telescope has improved, as well as the processing software. Besides this, the first appealing scientific results have already been published in different renowned scientific journals.

During the workshop in March, builders and users of the telescope, as well as owners of the different international antenna stations, can exchange science results and technical ideas and deepen the collaboration to get the most out of the LOFAR telescope at both the national and international level.

With LOFAR, ASTRON demonstrates the enormous potential and flexibility of aperture array technology and continues to develop this technology for the SKA. It is ASTRON’s ambition to continue to play a crucial role in the pre-construction (design), construction and operational phase of the SKA project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About ASTRON

ASTRON is the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Its mission is to make discoveries in radio astronomy happen, via the development of novel and innovative technologies, the operation of world-class radio astronomy facilities, and the pursuit of fundamental astronomical research. See also: www.astron.nl.

About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Construction of phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

Members of the SKA Organisation as of March 2013:

  • Australia: Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
  • Canada: National Research Council
  • China: National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Germany: Federal Ministry of Education and Research
  • Italy: National Institute for Astrophysics
  • Netherlands: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
  • New Zealand: Ministry of Economic Development
  • Republic of South Africa: National Research Foundation
  • Sweden: Onsala Space Observatory
  • United Kingdom: Science and Technology Facilities Council

Associate member:

  • India: National Centre for Radio Astrophysics

SKA website: skatelescope.org

Contacts:

For ASTRON: Femke Boekhorst, PR & Communication, ASTRON: +31 521 595 204 and +31 6 21 23 42 43. E-mail: boekhorst@astron.nl

For SKA: William Garnier, Chief Communications Officer, SKA: +44 (0) 161 306 9613 and + 44 (9) 7814 908 932. E-mail: w.garnier@skatelescope.org