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Royal Visit(s) to Dwingeloo

Submitter: Peter Bennema
Description: On May 28th 2013, King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima visited the northern provinces Groningen (in the morning) and Drenthe (in the afternoon). During a lunch with some 100 local and regional dignitaries, ASTRON Director Prof Mike Garrett managed to secure a brief audience with the Queen, inviting her to open the made-over ASTRON headquarters on the edge of Dwingeloo Heath.

In the afternoon, ASTRON presented itself on the Brink of sunny Dwingeloo, together with about 20 other stands and music groups. On display were pictures of (some of) the many Royal Visits that mark the prominent Dutch role in radio astronomy: Queen Juliana opening the 25m Dwingeloo telescope in 1956 (left), and the 3km Westerbork telescope in 1970 (right), and Queen Beatrix opening the 1000km LOFAR telescope in 2010 in Exloo (middle).

These photographs served as backdrop for a technical project carried out by four primary school pupils. The children made small scale-models of LOFAR antenna fields (see picture), demonstrating that using a larger number of antennas increases the sensitivity, and thus our ability to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

After the demonstration, the Royal Couple graciously paused near the 1956 picture, which was taken as prof Oort spoke the immortal words: "Zoudt U op deze knop willen drukken, Majesteit" (Wouldst Thou press this button, Your Majesty?). A worshipful but alert ASTRON operative took this opportunity to invite the King to visit ASTRON in the near future, to close the historical cycle by pushing the same button again, starting the second life of the completely refurbished Dwingeloo telescope.

No dates were fixed, of course, but the seeds have been sown.
Copyright: ASTRON
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