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Radboud University > Faculty of Science > Department of Astrophysics

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LOFAR - The Low-Frequency Array

LOFAR - Eyes of the Universe posterLOFAR is a revolutionary new digital radio telescope and the largest of its kind. It is located in the Netherlands and spreads throughout Europe. It targets the early phase of the universe as well as the most energetic cosmic particles.

LOFAR, the Low Frequency Array, is designed and built by ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The 25,000 antennas are spread over 40 fields in the north of the Netherlands and fields in Germany, Sweden, France and England. Glass fibres connect the antennas with a supercomputer at the University of Groningen. In this way, a giant telescope is created with a diameter of one hundred to one thousand kilometres.

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. LOFAR uses sophisticated computing and high speed internet to combine all the signals to survey the sky in great detail. It is a pathfinder for the development of a global telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The LOFAR project is financed from the BSIK agreement, by NWO, ASTRON, the Northern Netherlands Provinces (SNN), the European Union and the project partners. The total investment is about 100 million euro. The advanced glass fibre network is also being used by about sixty schools in the region for extremely fast internet access.

Because of its revolutionary design (incorporating phased arrays and electronic beam steering rather than mechanical pointing) and its large instantaneous field of view, LOFAR is well tailored to carrying out projects that require substantial amounts of telescope time. The design, development and construction of the facility have therefore been driven originally by four large key astronomical projects designed to pursue fundamental LOFAR science, of prime interest to the Dutch astronomical community. Later two new KSP projects have been initiated and established by an eager German astronomical community. By now, all KSPs have developed into international research groups that are contributing to the development of LOFAR.

The key science projects of LOFAR are:

  • Epoch of Reionisation
  • Deep extra galactic surveys
  • Transient sources
  • Ultra high energy cosmic rays
  • Solar science and space weather
  • Cosmic magnetism

The Nijmegen group has been involved in the design and construction of LOFAR from the start. Heino Falcke was international project scientist of the SKA and is now chair of the board of the “International LOFAR Telescope” foundation. Jörg Hörandel is PI of the Cosmic Ray Key-Science Project. We have contributed the LOFAR Radboud Airshower Array (LORA) to the LOFAR core, which was first proposed by Jan Kuijpers. The group also participates in the Survey, Transients, and Magnetism KSPs.

LOFAR Superterp (core region)

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