After a construction phase of more than two years, the ASTRON building was officially opened on Monday, March 16 by State Secretary Sander Dekker of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Published by the editorial team, 26 March 2015

This festive day started with a working visit from the State Secretary to the LOFAR and Westerbork telescopes. Under a sunny sky, ASTRON's world class and innovative instruments were shown to our distinguished guest.

After the visit to LOFAR and the WSRT, Mr Dekker was welcomed at the ASTRON HQ in Dwingeloo. Before the opening ceremony, the State Secretary was taken on a tour through the ASTRON building. Representatives of our departments explained what kind of research, development and science are taking place within ASTRON.

The official part of the programme took place at the newly built Van der Hulst Auditorium. The programme started with the premiere of the impressive movie about ASTRON.

Our General and Scientific Director, Prof. Michael Garrett, welcomed all guests and thanked all those that were involved in the building activities. Then Dr. Joeri van Leeuwen, Staff Astronomer, took us on an exciting journey through time and space. Daniëla Mikkers, business developer, spoke about ASTRON's liaisons with industry, and how we cooperate with various companies.

In his speech, the State Secretary stressed the societal impact of ASTRON's activities, as well as the importance of large scientific infrastructures.

An important focal point of the work of ASTRON is the preparation for the construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This international radio telescope will be built in Australia and South Africa starting in 2018.

As part of the event, the State Secretary signed a Letter of Intent for SKA in the presence of SKA Director General Prof. Philip Diamond. This signing confirms The Netherlands' close involvement with the project, and means that we will be an active participant in discussions starting this summer. These are aimed at setting up a long-term successor to the current SKA Organisation - an Intergovernmental Organisation, similar to ESO, ESA and CERN is currently the preferred option of the international partners. The Netherlands is the third country to sign the Letter of Intent after the UK and South Africa!

After placing his signature, State Secretary Dekker officially opened the new building by transmitting a radio wave from one end of the building to the other using a spark-gap transmitter first used by Hertz and Marconi in the pioneering days of radio science. In doing so, a historic timeline of ASTRON was unveiled.

We would like to thank everybody for making this an unforgettable day!

Sources

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