Her Majesty the Queen will open the biggest radio telescope in the world, LOFAR, on Saturday afternoon 12 June 2010 in Borger-Odoorn (Drenthe). The new LOFAR telescope has been built according to a completely new concept. No large dishes are used, but large numbers of small antennas.
25,000 antennas are spread over 36 fields in the North of the Netherlands and from Sweden to France and from the UK to the East of Germany.Glass fibres connect the antennas with a supercomputer. In this way, a giant telescope is formed with a diameter of one hundred to one thousand kilometres.
The telescope researches, among other things, the earliest Universe, cosmic particles and magnetism in the Milky Way and other galaxies. LOFAR is also used for research in the area of geophysics, precision agriculture and ICT. While the antennas observe the sky, underground sensors collect date about the structure of the Earth. These data contribute to better models for the Earth, water management and gas exploitation.
A consortium, led by ASTRON, is responsible for the building and development of LOFAR. ASTRON is the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Public and private parties work together for LOFAR. In this way, the social benefits will be as big as possible. A large number of primary schools now has super fast internet, thanks to the glass fibre network.
In the past, the Royal House opened the Dwingeloo Radio Telescoop (Juliana, 1956), the Westerbork Synthese Radiotelescoop (Juliana, 1970) and the new labs ASTRON (Beatrix, 1997).
LOFAR (www.lofar.nl) receives radio waves on other wave lengths than the fourteen dishes of the Westerbork telescope. Scientists and engineers are already investigating the next generation radio telescopes. This generation of telescopes will have to do research on the sky in the southern hemisphere. LOFAR is looking at the northern hemisphere. Fro 9 to 16 June, astronomers gather in Assen, Drenthe, to talk about this next generation radio telescopes, in particular the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The opening of the LOFAR telescope will take place near the 'superterp'. This is the central LOFAR area between the villages of Exloo and Buinen. Here around half of the antennas are placed in a new nature reserve. In a short, multimedia, presentation, scientists, politicians, captains of industry and others involved from the area will show how important LOFAR is and will be for them. After that, the different stations will officially be connected, thus making LOFAR the biggest radio telescope in the world.
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