Over 800 people visited the LOFAR telescope last Saturday during the open day at ASTRON. The day was organized in the context of the socalled EU Kijkdagen, an initiative of the Northern Netherlands Provinces (SNN). On these viewing days organizations in the Netherlands that received funding from the European Union (EU) can open their doors to the public.
ASTRON invited visitors to come and see LOFAR, the largest radio telescope in the world. Here they could feel like astronomer or engineer and perform an observation with the telescope, get a tour at the telescope in the field, learn about an even larger telescope than LOFAR and lie back and relax during a virtual tour through the universe.
For ASTRON, this day was also important with respect to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). This is a global project in which twenty countries worldwide cooperate to build an even larger and more sensitive radio telescope than LOFAR. The SKA will be built in South Africa and Australia. Internationally, ASTRON is one of the major players in this project. In the Netherlands, ASTRON has set up the SKA Northern Netherlands project (SKA-NN) to, in cooperation with industry, strengthen its position in the race to build the SKA.
The activities on the open day were suitable for young and old. Many children participated in the fun lab where they could solder together a disco broche or a walking light.
There was also a workshop where children made their own pulsars (the remnants of exploding stars). The most beautiful creations were made here!
Children and adults could sit back on soft cushions in the mobile planetarium of the University of Groningen and enjoy a journey through the universe. Already after two hours the planetarium was completely booked for the whole day.
Astronomers and engineers gave tours at the ASTRON and LOFAR talked about astronomical research with this telescope LOFAR why is important for the Square Kilometer Array.
There was a good and friendly atmosphere during the day; visitors were very interested in the activities at ASTRON and waited patiently if there is a waiting line, for example at the solar telescope, when the sun sometimes took a while to come out from behind the clouds. The tour guides in the field also got a few showers but happily, this did not spoil the fun. Many thanks for all the hard work of the volunteers!
You can find more information about these Kijkdagen on: http://www.europaomdehoek.nl/