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ERC Advanced Grant for astronomer Ger de Bruyn

Prof. dr. A.G. (Ger) de Bruyn (ASTRON, Dwingeloo & Kapteyn Institute, University of Groningen) has received an Advanced Grant of 3.35 million Euro from the European Research Council (ERC). With this money he can appoint a group of seven scientists (PhD students, Postdocs, and specialists in data analysis and software) for the next five years.

Published by the editorial team, 1 August 2013

The LOFAR radio telescope

When did the lights go on in the Universe? Which objects were responsible? And what can we still observe from this phase, about 13 billion years later? These are but some of the questions astronomers pose themselves about the ‘infant years’ of the Universe. To find answers to these questions prof. de Bruyn will use the revolutionary new radio telescope LOFAR, designed and built by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

Neutral hydrogen

Astronomers will look for signals from neutral hydrogen. These signals are extremely weak and are being drowned by noise from radio galaxies, our Galaxy and the receivers. The hydrogen signals were emitted, at rest, at a frequency of 1420 MHz. This frequency corresponds to a wavelength of 21 cm. The enormous expansion of the Universe since the signals were emitted, however, has increased the wavelength to about 1.5 – 2.5 meter. This corresponds to frequencies of about 120 – 200 MHz, the frequencies for which (part of) LOFAR was designed. In the infant years of the Universe, the first stars and galaxies must have been formed. The ionizing UV-radiation of these objects would create enormous holes – like in a Swiss cheese – in an ocean of neutral hydrogen that permeated the Universe in the first few hundred million years, so the theory goes. Observations with LOFAR will be used to find out whether this hypothesis is correct, how this process evolved and how long it lasted.

New computer cluster

A total of 0.9 million Euro of the ERC grant will be used to acquire an extremely powerful computer cluster. This cluster will be needed to carry out the vast number of computations to process the large data volume (more than 1000 terabyte*) and to filter the feeble signals from the noise.

De Bruyn, together with colleagues Koopmans and Zaroubi of the Kapteyn Institute and Brentjens from ASTRON, supported by an international team of astronomers, students and postdocs, has been planning this LOFAR project for the past ten years. The next five years they want to harvest.



the so-called superterp with antennas of the LOFAR telescope.

For more information please contact:

Femke Boekhorst, PR & Communication. Tel.: +31 (0)521 595 204 en +31 (0)6 21 23 42 43. E-mail:

Ger de Bruyn, astronomer. Tel.: +31 (0)521 595 787. E-mail:

Lucia van der Voort, Kapteyn institute University of Groningen. Tel.: +31 (0)50 363 4076. E-mail:

*1 terabyte=1000 gigabytes (GB).



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