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Westerbork telescope hunts for cosmic flashes

Radio flashes from neutron stars, black holes, and of still unknown origin continuously appear all over the the sky. Van Leeuwen (ASTRON) and team have received funding to build a high speed camera for the Westerbork telescope. It will make use of the thirty times enlarged field of view, made possible by new socalled Apertif receivers. With this camera, many new flashes can be found, for a detailed investigation of their nature.

Published by the editorial team, 21 February 2013

The project is funded through the so-called ‘Investeringen NWO Middelgroot’ grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). With this programme, NWO aims to encourage and support investments in research infrastructure. NWO pays a maximum of 75 percent of the investment costs. The institute where the research is being done, contributes at least 25 percent.

The field of view of the Westerbork telescope is being significantly enlarged by the new Apertif receivers. The new field of view (the large hexagon) is thirty times bigger than the old one (central circle) and the full moon. With the new high speed camera, astronomers will be able to detect weak and rare cosmic flashes. Recently, with the test system, two fast blinking pulsars have already been observed simultaneously. These flashes are visible at the bottom right.

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