The world’s biggest connected radio telescope will expand into Latvia. On 5 December, Ventspils University College (VUC) and AstroTec Holding BV, subsidiary of ASTRON, signed an agreement to develop a Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) station for the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre (VIRAC).

Published by the editorial team, 15 December 2017

The Dutch company AstroTec Holding, on behalf of the Netherlands Radio Astronomy Institute ASTRON, agreed for a contract with a value of 1,3 million euro to develop and construct the LOFAR station for Ventspils University College. The company also will rollout all the dedicated equipment required by this LOFAR station and, after completion, hand over the station to VUC. The station is planned to be completed at the mid of 2019.

As the dedicated electronics for the new LOFAR station are not on-stock, AstroTec will contract-out to industries the production of electronic components for the receivers, the antennas and LOFAR-specific signal processing equipment. Procurement will start early 2018. Dutch industries may benefit from this opportunity by participating in the production and assembly of the LOFAR electronics.

Scientific advancements

The development of a LOFAR station will provide Latvia and especially Ventspils University College with new opportunities for scientific advancements not only in radio astronomy, but also in information and communication technologies, geophysics, geodetics, environmental engineering and bioeconomics.

The Latvian partner VUC states that investing and participating in LOFAR provides a huge contribution to the modernisation of the Latvian science infrastructure, which will promote scientific and engineering development in modern technologies, will enable integration of Latvian science in European and world science and allowing Latvian science talents to engage in world-class research in Latvia.

Ex-Soviet installation

The location of the new LOFAR station is the radio telescope complex in Irbene. This is an ex-Soviet radio communications installation 30 km north of Ventspils, Latvia. It consists of a 32-metre radio telescope (RT-32) originally used by the Soviets to investigate on radio communications outside of the USSR. The installation was secret until 1993 after Latvia regained independence. The RT-32 is now being used for scientific purposes. Another 16-meter wide telescope (RT-16) is also in use. Because of the very low level of radio interference, this site perfectly is suitable for the sensitive LOFAR radio telescope.

More information about LOFAR

LOFAR is a top class facility for astronomical research. This new generation radio telescope investigates the origin of the first galaxies, black holes and gas clouds at the 'birth' of the universe.

LOFAR receives the lowest frequencies that can be observed from the Earth. LOFAR was designed and built by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The international LOFAR telescope (ILT) is a European network of radio antennas, connected by a high-speed fibre optic network. Of the 51 antenna stations, 38 are in the Netherlands, 6 in Germany, 3 in Poland and 1 in France, England, Sweden and Ireland. The core of LOFAR is located in Exloo in the Netherlands.

With the data of thousands of antennas together, powerful computers create a virtual dish with a diameter of two thousand kilometres. Consequently, telescope gets has an even sharper and more sensitive vision.

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