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I-LOFAR Exploring the Radio Universe from Ireland


LOFAR is a cutting-edge international network of radio telescopes that will provide new views of exploding stars, detect previously unknown planets, and enable us to study the early Universe after the Big Bang.

LOFAR leads the way for a new generation of digital radio telescopes that consist of multiple antennae spread over large geographic areas. Radio waves received by the antennae are sampled digitally and transmitted via high-speed fibre optics to an IBM BlueGene supercomputer in the Netherlands, where radio images of the Universe are then created.

LOFAR sensor network and proposed extension to Ireland

In Ireland, a cross-border consortium of astronomers, computer scientists, and engineers propose to install a LOFAR station in Birr Castle Demesne, in the midlands of Ireland (I-LOFAR). The telescope will transform Irish astrophysics and ICT research, create links between universities and industry, inspire school children with the wonder of cutting-edge science, and fascinate the general public.


Irish Excellence in Science and Engineering LOFAR will revolutionize our understanding of exploding stars, see galaxies further into the Universe than ever before, find new planets around other stars, and provide a new insight into the workings of our solar system. Irish scientists will use LOFAR to study the impact of solar activity on technologies such as GPS, telecommunications, and electrical power grids. Furthermore, the technologies required for LOFAR will drive computer scientists to develop new computing and datamanagement systems based on Grid and Cloud computing, areas of significant growth opportunity for Ireland.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Irish Scientists and Engineers I-LOFAR will fascinate students and the general public with the wonder of space. Our mission is to contribute to Ireland’s continued growth and development as a society – one that has an active and informed interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We will use I-LOFAR to create awareness and interest in these key technological areas and to attract students into careers in science and engineering. LOFAR will act as a focus to inspire and train a new generation of Irish engineers and scientists using one of the most advanced technological systems ever developed for astronomical research.


Stimulating University-Industry Links

Ireland’s future depends on developing a smart economy based on creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I-LOFAR is a highly innovative high-technology project that will act as a springboard for future enterprise and innovation in the midlands and across the island. I-LOFAR will require products and services from companies with experience in networks and data systems. IBM are already providing LOFAR’s BlueGene supercomputer in the Netherlands, while a number of Irish companies – including Intune Technologies, Openet, and Skytek – will use I-LOFAR to develop novel networking and data-management technologies.

Building on Ireland’s Scientific Tradition

Ireland has a distinguished tradition in science, producing luminaries such as Hamilton, Stokes, Kelvin, Boyle, Tyndall, Beaufort, and Boole. Among the most notable was the 3rd Earl of Rosse, who built the Leviathan Telescope in Birr in the mid-1800s. This great Irish telescope was the largest in the world until the building of the 100-inch Hooker Telescope in California in 1917. Birr’s tradition and radio-quiet environment make it an ideal location for what will be the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world. I-LOFAR will not only attract additional visitors to Birr, but will contribute to Ireland emerging as a key player in international research and development.


Big Questions That LOFAR Could Answer


What did the Universe look like soon after the Big Bang? LOFAR will take radio images of the Universe soon after the Big Bang, enabling us to understand its origins and early evolution.


What are black holes? These enigmatic objects were predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. LOFAR will enable us to study black holes in the centre of distant galaxies with more detail than ever before.


Are we alone in the Universe? LOFAR will enable scientists to search for planets in other star systems, and also to detect very weak radio signals from far away, perhaps indicating intelligent life.


How does the Sun affect the Earth? Solar storms can produce spectacular auroral displays, but large events can interrupt GPS, damage satellites, and disrupt power grids. LOFAR will track these disruptive storms, enabling us to better forecast their impacts at Earth.


How do clusters of galaxies, galaxies, stars and planets form? LOFAR will provide clues to the processes forming the Universe today, including the origins of magnetic fields and cosmic rays, the birth of stars and planets, and perhaps the origin of life.

I-LOFAR Consortium Trinity College Dublin Peter Gallagher, Brian Espey, Graham Harper, Shaun Bloomfield National University of Ireland, Galway Andy Shearer, Matt Redman Dublin City University Masha Chernyakova Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Luke Drury, Tom Ray, Felix Aharonian Armagh Observatory Mark Bailey, Simon Jeffery Queen’s University Belfast Stephen Smartt, Rubina Kotak, Ryan Milligan University College Cork Paul Callanan National University of Ireland, Maynooth Anthony Murphy, Creidhe O’Sullivan, Neil Trappe University College Dublin Lorraine Hanlon, John Quinn, Tom Brazil

Dublin Institute of Technology Kevin Berwick Cork Institute of Technology Niall Smith University of Limerick Máirtín O’Droma, Tony Goacher Grid-Ireland Brian Coghlan, David O’Callaghan Irish Center for High-End Computing Michael Browne University of Southampton, UK Anna Scaife University of Leiden, The Netherlands George Miley California Institute of Technology, USA Gregg Hallinan

I-Lofar —Exploring the Radio Universe from Ireland  

LOFAR is a cutting-edge international network of radio telescopes that will provide new views of exploding stars, detect previously unknown...