Brendan Parsons (Earl of Rosse), Gerry Doyle (Armagh), Joe McCauley (TCD) and Peter Gallagher (TCD).
Orla Martin (Offaly Enterprise Office), Anna-Marie Delaney (Offaly County Council CEO) and Lord Rosse.
Peter Gallagher talking about the Leviathan telescope.
The Irish LOFAR Consortium met in Birr, Co. Offaly on January 6, 2017 to review ground-works to date and discuss plans for the I-LOFAR station roll-out in May-July 2017.
The agenda was as follows:
11:00-11:30 Coffee in Science Visitor Centre
11:30-13:00 Walking tour/review of ground works [JMcC & PG]
13:00-14:00 Lunch in Castle
14:00-15:00 Scheduling and staffing for station roll-out [JMcC]
15:00-15:30 ILT Membership and Education Centre plans [PG]
15:45-16:45 Future research and funding plans including computing resources [All]
"LOFAR Single Station Usage - A Brief Tutorial”
Dr Richard Fallows, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), Dwingeloo, The Netherlands.
A LOFAR station is a remarkably flexible scientific instrument capable of acting as a high-resolution spectrometer, with applications in space weather, from solar flare monitoring to scintillation studies of the solar wind and ionosphere, to measurements of pulsars. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how the station may be controlled and the flexibility harnessed. I will also demonstrate the control and data recording systems developed and used by the KAIRA station in northern Finland and detail where information can be found and shared about all single-station usage by the ILT partners.
Location: Fitzgerald Library, Trinity College Dublin
Date: Thursday, December 15 at 15:00
(Click on the image for a larger image)
In unseasonably favorable weather, the footprint for the latest LOFAR station (IE613) emerges from the ground at Birr Castle, Ireland. The ground levels are being raised by local contractors, Conneeley Building & Civil Engineering, to counter risks to the array posed by flooding.
Deployment of the antennas is scheduled to begin in spring 2017 after a pause for winter. IE613, when operational, will extend the international LOFAR base line to almost 1950km. Commissioning is expected to be completed in the autumn of 2017.
A research group at the Dublin Insitute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) has recently used LOFAR to detect T Tau, a young sun-like star. This is the lowest frequency detection of a young stellar object to date, and the first ever detection of a young star with LOFAR. This detection was made possible by combining the next-generation quality data produced by LOFAR with high performance computing provided by DIAS and the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC). Observing young stars at these extremely low frequencies offers new ways to characterise their radio emission and paves the way for investigating the formation of stars like our Sun with future radio telescopes such as the Square Kilometer Array.
The colour scale shows the radio emission associated with T Tau detected at 149 MHz (2 m) with LOFAR and the contours show the radio emission detected at higher frequency (longer wavelength) at 610 MHz (0.5 m) with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT). The LOFAR detection is the longest wavelength detection of a young star to date. The radio emission is believed to arise due to ionisation via shocks in the supersonic outflows driven by this newly forming Sun-like star.
Today was a momentous day for physicists, who have finally detected gravitational waves and verified Einstein's general theory of relativity. The evidence is all in the figure below which shows signals of gravitational waves detected by the two LIGO Observatories. The signals came from two merging black holes 1.3 billion light-years away. The top two plots show data received at each detector, along with waveforms predicted by general relativity. The LIGO data match the predictions very closely. The final plot compares data from both facilities, confirming the detection.
Theorist predict that a mass equivalent to three solar masses was converted to gravitational waves in a fraction of a second -- 50 times the power of the entire Universe! A new era of astronomy opens! Further information can be found at the Science Daily Website.
In Ireland, a consortium of universities are now building a radio telescope called LOFAR at Birr Castle which will play a vital role in testing Einstein’s theories of gravity using observations of black holes and the large-scale structure of the Universe.
An artist's impression of merging black holes that generated the gravitational waves.
International LOFAR Radio Telescope to Extend to Ireland
The world’s largest connected radio telescope is about to become even bigger! LOFAR, the Low Frequency Array, will expand into Ireland in 2016. This is not only great news for Irish astrophysics, but also for the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT).
Prof. Peter Gallagher (I-LOFAR), Prof. Mark Ferguson (SFI), Lord Rosse (Birr Castle), Minister Richard Bruton, and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD at the announcement of SFI's award to build an international LOFAR station at Birr Castle.
LOFAR is a world-leading facility for astronomical studies, providing for highly sensitive and detailed scrutiny of the nearby and far-away Universe. LOFAR is designed and operated on behalf of the ILT by ASTRON, the Netherlands institute for Radio Astronomy.
Dr. Rene Vermeulen, Director of the ILT, is delighted with the news: "The added Irish antenna station will be an excellent enhancement, extending the ILT to a pan-European fibre-connected network spanning nearly 2000 km. Such long distances allow exquisitely finely detailed sky imaging capability. And, at least as importantly, the Irish astronomical community will now add their expertise and effort to the "ILT family", in the pursuit of a great many cutting-edge science questions that LOFAR can answer. Topics range from the properties of the Earth's upper atmosphere, flaring of the Sun, out to the far reaches of the early Universe when the first stars and galaxies formed."
According to Prof. Peter Gallagher, Head of I-LOFAR, “The Irish LOFAR station at Birr builds on Ireland’s great scientific heritage of the Leviathan Telescope of Birr and will connect us to the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world. I-LOFAR will also inspire students to study science, engineering and computer science, and attract additional visitors to Birr. It will also act as a magnet to attract technology companies to the area.” Indeed, the CTO of Openet and long-term supporter of I-LOFAR, Joe Hogan, says that "LOFAR will give Irish graduates and companies the opportunity to develop software solutions designed for real-time scenarios. Astronomy projects like I-LOFAR produce vast volumes of data that challenge us to develop new cutting-edge data analytics solutions".
The International LOFAR Telescope is the largest connected radio telescope in the world. There are currently six partner countries: of the 50 antenna stations, 38 are located in the Netherlands, 6 in Germany, 3 in Poland, and 1 each in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Together, these have many thousands of receiving elements. The new Irish station will increase the distances between antenna stations, thus providing finer image details.
The International LOFAR Telescope stretching from Poland to Ireland. The ILT is the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world.
Research from the School of Physics has been featured on the front cover of a leading European scientific journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics. Trinity graduate student Ms. Diana Morosan and her supervisor Prof. Peter Gallagher used observations of the Sun from the International Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) to study very short pulses of radio waves from the solar atmosphere. These radio bursts have been imaged for the first time by LOFAR and the results of their study have been published in a paper which featured in the August edition of Astronomy & Astrophysics. These bursts are less than 1 second long which made it challenging for previous radio telescopes to determine their location. These observations show the true potential of LOFAR in advancing the study of radio emission coming from the Sun.
The high resolution image can be found here.
The Solar Physics Group at TCD are delighted to report that they have made more progress in imaging bursts of radio waves from the Sun using LOFAR. The short solar radio bursts (S bursts) observed on 9 July 2013 by LOFAR can be seen in the movie below. The top panel shows the solar radio bursts imaged (S bursts) while the bottom panels show where these radio bursts originate on the Sun. This movie is the first of its kind imaging radio sources on the Sun at 50 ms cadence. So far radio imaging has been limited to a quarter of a second. The actual duration of the events occurring in the movie is only 4 s. This movie shows that the radio Sun is very active on very short timescales despite appearing relatively quiet at other wavelengths. These results will be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and they are key to understanding how electrons can be accelerated in the solar atmosphere and on other stars as well as planets in our Universe.
On June 29, 2015 the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, announced the "Action Plan for Jobs: Midland Region 2015-2017". We were delighted that I-LOFAR has been included in the plan in a prominent way. This is a significant step forward for the project, thanks to the efforts of Denis Duggan (Enterprise Ireland).
The following is from the Action Plan.
At the time of finalisation of this Action Plan, there were a number of emerging projects with potential for job creation and enterprise opportunity in the region in the future. These project require further development by the promoters and are medium-term in timescale. Progress on these projects will be kept under review over the lifetime of the Action Plan.
The establishment of a next-generation radio telescope in Birr was identified in consultations with stakeholders as holding potential for the creation of a research and data analytics hub in the Midlands.
LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) is a next-generation radio telescope that is currently being deployed across Europe, with stations already operating in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and the UK at an investment of €150 million.
I-LOFAR refers to a proposal by a consortium of Irish universities and Research Institutes (which includes Athlone Institute of Technology and is led by Trinity College Dublin) to build and operate an Irish LOFAR radio telescope at Birr Castle which will connect Ireland into the International LOFAR telescope and sensor network.
Birr Castle Demense & Gardens is the site of preference of the Irish consortium, as Birr has little radio interference, making it ideal for radio astronomy. Birr Castle Demense & Gardens has an existing Science Visitor Centre and is internationally recognized for its tradition in astronomy. The plan is to facilitate the development of the iLOFAR on a 6 acre site in the Demesne & Gardens.
The local availability of a fibre network (MAN, or Metropolitan Area Network) makes data-transport at high rates suitable for radio astronomy a possibility. I-LOFAR will use approximately 30% of a 10 Gbps fibre connection to Birr. Internet providers will be able to use the remainder to provide high-speed broadband to users on the Birr MAN and companies at the Birr Technology Centre, for example. The data acquired by the telescope will generate daily a volume of data on par to Ireland’s total daily internet traffic. The facility has the potential to provide the data resources for data analysis on a scale not currently possible in Ireland.
From an enterprise and jobs perspective, locating this infrastructure in the Midlands would:
An international team of scientists lead by Irish astronomer Dr. Eamon O'Gorman have been awarded 32 hours of observing time with the international LOFAR array to search for radio waves from planets orbiting other stars. It is believed that billions of these so-called ‘exoplanets’ exist in our galaxy alone, and Dr O’Gorman is confident that some of them can be detected at radio wavelengths with LOFAR.
Dr O’Gorman said, “In our own solar system, Jupiter can outshine the Sun at certain radio wavelengths. We predict that some massive exoplanets should be detectable with LOFAR thanks to its groundbreaking and unparalleled sensitivity. Detecting exoplanets at radio wavelengths would not only open the door to a whole new method of their detection, but would also allow us to study their magnetic fields, composition, and how fast they rotate.”
Dr O'Gorman also explained that the proposed I-LOFAR telescope at Birr castle would be revolutionary for both the Irish astrophysics community and the entire LOFAR member states across Europe. “I-LOFAR will increase the overall sensitivity of the array and will enable us to see finer details. It will certainly improve our chances of finding these faint radio signals from other worlds. It is exciting to think that we are now close to having the capabilities of studying exoplanets from Ireland.”