LOFAR - Birth of a European Radio Telescope

Official launch of the LOFAR telescope network with French, German, Dutch, Swedish and British participation

The world's largest radio telescope was officially launched at a special ceremony in the Netherlands on 12. June 2010 attended by astronomers from the German institutions involved and many other countries. Together with the Dutch stations, several German stations are already fully integrated in the LOFAR measurement runs.

Fig. 1: The LOFAR central stations on a specially engineered field (“superterp”) between Exloo and Buinen in Drenthe, in the north east of the Netherlands. Image: Aerophoto Eelde.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands formally opened LOFAR, which stands for Low Frequency Array. Representatives from consortia in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom then officially signed the memorandum that kicks off their scientific collaboration in LOFAR. The all-electronic 'next generation' telescope developed by ASTRON can now offer to astronomers the joint use of a network of antennae that spreads from its core region in the northeast of the Netherlands to distances of thousands of kilometers across Europe. Three German stations are already integrated (linkPfeil.gifDetails in the Structure of a distant Quasar): Effelsberg near Bonn, Tautenburg near Jena, the MPA-Station in Unterweilenbach near Garching, and soon Bornim near Potsdam.

“After all these years of preparation we are finally entering in the commissioning phase,” says Benedetta Ciardi from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. “We are all looking forward to the inflow of data ahead of us.”

LOFAR uses sophisticated computing and high speed internet to combine all the signals to survey the sky in great detail. The giant telescope will enable scientists to study how distant galaxies take shape, to find out when the early Universe was first lit up, to probe the properties of energetic cosmic particles, to map magnetised structures all across the sky, and to monitor the sun's activity as well as a wide range of variable and explosive celestial objects. It is a pathfinder for the development of a global telescope, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA).

Further Information:
linkPfeil.gifThe International SKA Forum 2010
linkPfeilExtern.gifPressemitteilung des MPIfR
linkPfeilExtern.gifNetherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON).
linkPfeilExtern.gifGerman LOng Wavelength (GLOW).
linkPfeilExtern.gifLOFAR MPA Website

Hannelore Hämmerle
Press Officer
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics
and Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics
Phone: +49 89 30000-3980
E-Mail: hhaemmerlempa-garching.mpg.de

Benedetta Ciardi
Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics
Phone: +49 89 30000-2018
E-mail: bciardimpa-garching.mpg.de