Dr. Joeri van Leeuwen (ASTRON/University of Amsterdam) was awarded a Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). With this grant for European top researchers Van Leeuwen will expand his research group to investigate unexplained radio flashes that appear over the sky.

Published by the editorial team, 26 November 2013

Throughout the Galaxy, many short bright radio bursts go off. Some of these are emitted by pulsars, Galactic radio-lighthouses. Others originate from far outside our Galaxy, and appear to represent enormous explosions. Their exact nature is still unclear. Astronomers do expect that both the pulsars and the explosive bursts can provide fundamental insights into matter and gravity, which permeate the Universe in which the Sun and Earth exist.

Van Leeuwen proposed to form a team of young researchers to investigate these mysterious bursts. That team operates from ASTRON and the University of Amsterdam, using the Westerbork and LOFAR telescopes. After a selection from thousands of competing scientists, the ERC decided to fund this proposal through a 2 million Euro grant.

In this research, the new Apertif receivers on the Westerbork radio telescope will be linked to the LOFAR telescope that recently started up. Both are designed and built by ASTRON. Westerbork has a wide field of view, while LOFAR offer high precision and accuracy. A supercomputer will now combine these two. Van Leeuwen concludes: ‘We take two of the best radio telescopes in the world -- and we combine them to produce a burst-finding machine that is far more powerful than the sum of its parts'.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Joeri van Leeuwen. E-mail: leeuwen@astron.nl. Phone: +31 626154552

The huge field of view of Apertif on the Westerbork telescope, left, can find radio bursts over a large part of the sky. The LOFAR telescope, right, can then determine the position of these bursts very precisely. Van Leeuwen and team will use this to investigate how the bursts are formed.



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