Our Radio Observatory handles the exploitation of our telescopes, LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) and WSRT (Westerbork Synthese Radio Telescope). Both telescopes are among the best radio telescopes in the world. Together with an international astronomical community we use the telescopes for outstanding scientific research.
Teams of the Radio Observatory
Within the Radio Observatory of ASTRON, three teams exist that are dedicated to the various aspects of LOFAR operations: Operations & Maintenance (O&M), Software Development & Operational Support (SDOS), and Science Operations & Support (SOS). O&M is responsible for the actual control and primary monitoring of LOFAR and for the maintenance of the station hardware. SDOS is in charge of supplying software support to the Radio Observatory operations, and is also responsible for the continuous software developments to keep the facilities in the frontline. SOS is responsible for optimising the scientific output of the ASTRON-operated telescopes, by on the one hand supporting with their astronomical knowledge the operators and software and instrument engineers, and on the other hand supporting with their instrument and technical knowledge the external users/scientists with their research projects. In view of the distributed nature of LOFAR, the ASTRON operations crew works in coordination with additional maintenance groups located at the international stations and at CIT at the University of Groningen, where the compute cluster and the correlator are located.
Everyday LOFAR operations are coordinated and controlled from ASTRON’s headquarters in Dwingeloo. Operators perform the detailed scheduling and configuration of the instrument, which includes setting up the appropriate online processing chain and destination of the data. The proper functioning of the stations, WAN, and CEP system can be verified remotely. The monitoring and control system also collects and analyses the metadata gathered throughout the system in order to trace (impending) problems.
WSRT and LOFAR
The Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, is an open user facility available for scientists from any country. It is also part of the European VLBI network (EVN) of radio telescopes. APERTIF (APERture Tile In Focus), a next generation observing system using focal plane array technology, has been installed on the WSRT in order to significantly expand its field of view and its survey speed, enabling new, innovative types of astronomical research. Following system integration and commissioning WSRT with APERTIF is expected to start initial operations during 2018.
LOFAR is a radio interferometric array consisting of many low-cost antennae, organised in stations arranged in an area of 100km diameter as well as several international stations and operating between 10 and 250 MHz.
Astronomers can request observing time for LOFAR using this NorthStar link and following the instructions given in the “Announcement for Opportunity” issued periodically. Opportunities for observing with APERTIF will be advertised in due course.