Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Congratulations to Winners of the 2012 Photowalk

The winners of the 2012 STFC Photowalk Competition were announced today.

LOFAR-UK would like to pass our congratulations to the national winner, Mrs Lisa Ward who won a trip to CERN with the below photo she took of the 25m dish at Chilbolton.

2012 STFC Photowalk National Winner, Lisa Ward (Credit: Lisa Ward/STFC)
We also extend our congratulation to Dr. Roger Dingley, who was named the Chilbolton winner for the below photo he took of a LOFAR-UK antenna at Chilbolton.

2012 STFC Photowalk Chilbolton Winner, Roger Dingley (Credit: Roger Dingley/STFC)

And finally congratulations too to all the other regional winners, and indeed all the entrants for their fantastic photos of STFC facilities across the nation.

You can see all the finalists here, and some photos of the photographers at work on the Chilbolton LOFAR-UK site here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

STFC Photowalk Competition Finalists

The 10 finalists of the 2012 STFC Photowalk Competition have now been decided, and include one image of a LOFAR LBA at the Chilbtolton Observatory.

The final images include 4 regional winners, the winner of an online vote, plus the next top 5 from the online vote.

The regional, online and overall national winners will be announced on Friday 7th December following the final judging panel.

This is the LOFAR Image which has been shortlisted. "Part of the LOFAR site - Searching the Universe", by Roger Dingley (for full credits see here.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Second Round of Proposals to use LOFAR-UK as a single station

The second announcement of opportunity for UK scientists to apply to use the LOFAR-UK station in "stand-alone", or single station mode is now live. The deadline for proposals is 5pm on Monday 10th December 2012. For more details see this page the LOFAR-UK For Astronomers pages.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Press Release: Supermassive Black Hole Inflates Giant Bubble

A press release out this morning from ASTRON on the results from LOFAR imaging of M87

Supermassive Black Hole Inflates Giant Bubble

The image from the release above- a lovely composite of the LOFAR and SDSS optical data.

Monday, October 15, 2012

LOFAR-UK Video on the Jodcast

A Jodcast video released this weekend shows Jodcast presenters visiting the LOFAR-UK station in Chilbolton and interviews with several LOFAR-UK scientists helping out with the repairs following the big storm last January.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A LOFAR View of M87

A paper appears on the arxiv today with new images of the centre of nearby elliptical galaxy M87, taken with the Dutch LOFAR stations.

M87 at Metre Wavelenghts: the LOFAR Picture, by de Gasperin et al. (A&A in press).

M87 (also known at Virgo-A) is one of the two massive elliptical galaxies found at the centre of our nearest cluster of galaxies (the Virgo cluster).

In the centre of M87 is a well know actively accreting supermassive black hole, which is emitting jets of energetic particles which emit significant amounts of radio. These jets are even (just) visible in optical images of M87 (the blue line below).

Optical image of M87 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. Scale 3x3 arcmins.  More details. 

M87 has often been a poster child for radio astronomy images. These images of the jet taken by the NRAO's VLA can be seen in many talks about radio galaxies and AGN.

M87 imaged at 90cm (300 Mhz) with the VLA. Scale 15x15 arcmin. More details. 
And especially this series of images zooming into the central regions.

For more details see the APOD entry for this image

The paper on the arxiv today used observations of M87 with both the HBA and LBA arrays of LOFAR. The Dutch stations only were used in this observation - adding in international stations like Chilbolton will be able to increase the resolution even further, and I will look forward to seeing that in the future.

I have extracted two of the images from the paper. This first was taken with the HBA at 140 MHz (2.1 m) and shows an area 15x15 arcmin in size (same as the VLA image above, but at wavelengths more than twice as large).

And this shows one of the many LBA images made - this one at 25 Mhz (12m) of a slightly larger sky area (21x21 arcmin). 

These new observations at lower frequencies than ever before allow scientists to better constrain the spectral shape of the radio emission from the jets, which in turn can be used to constrain the details of how the supermassive black hole in the centre of M87 is able to power these extremely extended emission regions.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

STFC Photowalk 2012 Visits Chilbolton

It was a beautiful day yesterday in Chilbolton, perfect for a visit by more than 40 amateur and professional photographers taking part in the STFC run Photowalk 2012.

A photographer gets an unusual angle on the LOFAR-UK LBA field. Image credit: Alan Doo, STFC. 

STFC hold photowalks across all of their facilities with an aim of engaging with another stakeholder group, and perhaps collating an image bank of photos, which may be taken in a different style. Yesterday 27 photographers visited Chilbolton in the morning, and 30 in the afternoon.  They were given the opportunity to photograph the whole site, including the wildlife!  

Photographers who took part in yesterday's events will be able to enter their images to a regional, national and international competition for public and expert judging (along with photographers from similar events held at other STFC facilities). Judges will include award-winning photographer Max Alexander who told STFC: "The inaugural Photo Walk competition in 2011 was a fantastic success, producing spectacular photographs of cutting edge science, and I am delighted to be a judge again this year. The Photo Walks are a unique opportunity for members of the public and enthusiastic photographers to capture dynamic images at some of the UK's leading science and technology facilities. I thoroughly recommend entering this competition to get behind the scenes of these inspiring and world class facilities."

Check out the winners of last year's photography competition. Not that we're biased, but we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that one of this year's winners took a picture of our lovely LOFAR-UK antennas. 

Following a selection of the 10 best images from each of the four STFC sites, a website will be available for members of the public to vote on the best of the 40. We'll keep you posted on when that becomes available. 

Another interesting angle. Image credit: Alan Doo, STFC

Image credit: Alan Doo, STFC

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First radar light for KAIRA

Well done to our colleagues at KAIRA (Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array) - the LOFAR-based project in Finland - who last Friday achieved their first radar light.
Using the EISCAT VHF transmitter at Ramsfjordmoen, near Tromsø, Norway, they transmitted a single 1.28ms long pulse. Using the multi-beam capability of the LOFAR-KAIRA system, they pointed at 31 common volumes along the transmission path and detected weak ionospheric plasma scatter. They have also now detected space debris and meteor echoes too.
Their initial spectrum is shown below. More information can be found on the KAIRA website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

LOFAR at the International Astronomical Union Meeting

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly meeting is happening soon in Beijing, China (a bit like the Olympics of Astronomy in a way - for example it happens every 3 years, the offical language is French, and it brings the worlds best together to showcase their skills - we don't compete for medals though!).

Anyway, LOFAR is going to be well represented at this IAU GA meeting, and below I list some of the talks on LOFAR science I have noticed on the program. LOFAR talks will appear in several different sessions demonstrating the diversity of science which is already coming out of LOFAR:

SpS4: "New Era for studying Interstellar and Intergalactic Magnetic Fields"

IAUS291: "Neutron Stars and Pulsars"

JD1: "The Highest Energy Gamma-Ray Universe Observed with Cerenkov Telecope Array Projects"

and also some of the technical challenges we are learning to face thanks to the data volumes of LOFAR:

SpS5: "Data Intensive Astronomy".

Here's the full LOFAR programme I've found so far:

Mon 20th August
11.20am Anna Sciafe - LOFAR and SKA for Magnetism Science
11.35am Vlad Kondratiev (for Ben Stappers) - New results from LOFAR 

Tue 21st August
11am - Heino Falcke - LOFAR in the era of Cerenkov Telescope Arrays

Wed 22nd August 
4pm Heino Falcke - Accretion and outflow in the local universe - first results from LOFAR

Thur 23rd August 
11.55am Annalisa Bonafede - Radio relics and magnetic field amplification in the ICM
3pm Thijs Coenen - LOFAR commissioning pulsar surveys
3.15pm Heino Falcke - FRATs: Searching for fast radio transients in real time with LOFAR

Fri 24th August
11.00am Joeri van Leeuwen
12.00pm Vlad Kondratiev - Pulsar Emission at the Bottom-End of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Wed 29th August
11am - Panagiotis Lampropoulos - Analysis of LOFAR EoR data on a GPU Cluster
2pm Michael Wise - Exascale Data Management with LOFAR (I)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feedback from LOFAR Talk at Winchester Science Festival

We received some lovely feedback about Dr. Anna Scaife's talk on LOFAR from the Winchester Science Festival which I wanted to share.

"I’d like to say a huge thank you to Dr. Anna Scaife for her talk about LOFAR at the Winchester Science Festival. It was really fantastic !"

"The whole weekend was a triumph for the organisers and being able to hear talks from so many scientists about their work was simply joyful."

"LOFAR is of particular interest to me [] and it was great to have my question about the arrangement of the low band antennas answered with technical detail."

We were also sent these images of Anna in full flow of her talk. Image creditsDave Hughes, President of the Hampshire Skeptics Society.

LOFAR-UK on the (Bing) Map

From the KAIRA Project Blog: the LOFAR-UK station at Chilbolton now appears on the satellite images used by the Bing Maps.

Nice to see. :)

For the contrasting view, Google Maps currently has only empty fields at the same location.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July - a good time to install a LOFAR station

Two years about LOFAR-UK was blogging about installing our station (with much thanks to Derek for such regular updates).

Last year I gave instructions on how to relive this by following the live installations in Finland (HBAs) and Sweden.

The Swedish array was opened in October 2011, but the short summers in Finland, mean the rest of the Finnish station is being installed this year.

So again the @KAIRAProject are working hard installing their low band antennas (LBAs) and live blogging and tweeting the experience. 

Here's their progress of LBA installation as of Friday (colours indicate installation on different days).

Keep up the good work, and enjoy. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lofar Planetarium shows at the University of Southampton's community day

As part of the University's 60@60 Community day on Saturday 30th June 2012 the Soton Astrodome team, lead by myself (Sadie Jones) put on 5- 1 hour long LOFAR-UK themed planetarium shows for the general public.

Members of the public were lured into the Physics & Astronomy Department by a 'dummy' lofar antenna outside the building seen below.

When inside the department members of the public were invited to sit on the mats in our planetarium and watch a 50 minute show. These shows involved watching 4 short videos followed by an interactive tour the night sky above Southampton, including several LOFAR images using the (FREE to download) Stellarium software.

The first video was an edited version of 'We are Astronomers' which detailed how astronomers in general use the Electromagnetic Spectrum to do exciting astronomy.

The second video was an edited version of the What is LOFAR ? video made by ASTRON. In this edited version I focused on the simple and cheap antennas used by LOFAR and it's ability to look at all the sky, all the time. This video also details the use of LOFAR for looking at pulsars, transients and space weather.

The third video shown was about the building of the LOFAR-UK station in Chilbolton and is introduced by Professor Bob Nichol from Portsmouth. This video also features me (Sadie), as one of the PhD students (aka. free labour) wielding a hammer and attaching the amplifier to an LBA. Featured also are many other PhD students from other Universities such as Portsmouth & Oxford. I end this video along the lines of Professor Bob's final thoughts on aliens with some ominous scary music and an image of a massive aliens. To see the video (made by the Uni of Portsmouth) on youtube click here.

The fourth and final short film shows the million galaxies imaged by the Sloan digital sky survey. This movie ends by going right out to the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at the edge of the observable universe. I explain that lofar will be used for similar radio surveys and will hopefully reveal a further 10 million active galaxies. It will also look at the Epoch of Reionisation, a time just after the big bang (after the CMB radiation) when the Hydrogen from the early universe was starting to form galaxies.

The interactive Stellarium show featured both optical and lofar images of M87, M101 and the Crab Nebula.

The first planetarium show which started at 10am was for staff members from the Faculty of Physics and Applied science and their families. The first show included mainly young children with their parents, including Professor Rob Fender and his wife and children.

The remaining 4 shows (at 11,12,2 & 3pm) were all full to capacity with 30 people in each and contained manily adults with only 10% of the rest of the audience children.

We got asked so many great questions from members of the community and they were all really excited by the fact this 'cheap' radio telescope was both 'local' and doing such exciting astronomy.

I posed 2 questions to those who came to the show. One question for the adults and another for the children. Some of the best answers to the questions are shown below:

Question for Adults

What are your thoughts on the LOFAR telescope?

'Excellent for new astronomy. Great way to Explore"

'Why didn't 'we' do this earlier ?'

"I'm stunned by the cooperation of different countries and the extent of the communication & integration from those countries"


"What good value this type of Astronomy is!"

"Good to see what can be done with a reasonable budget with good collaboration across Europe/World"

"I think the mechanisms that causes jets to be emitted from black holes and neutrons stars is the most interesting thing LOFAR will teach us"

Question for Children

Have you learnt anything new today? What did you learn?

There is a big telescope in Chile

LOFAR stands for low frequency telescope!

We learnt that there are lots of stars in the galaxy.

Telescopes are great to look at.

I learnt about black holes !

It is so great!

We learnt that black holes are very big!

We learnt about lots of things :)

The future sees us improving on of this prototype LOFAR planetarium show and then making use of it for other open days and in local schools (probably for A-level and GCSE Astronomy students). We aim to get as many people excited about LOFAR as possible:)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learn about LOFAR at the Winchester Science Festival

The inaugural Winchester Science Festival is taking place over the weekend of 20th-22nd July 2012. This event will be celebrating the best of Hampshire and World Science and feautures some of the best science communicators in the UK.

The Sunday programme includes a lecture at 2pm on "Exploring the low-frequency Universe with LOFAR", given by Dr Anna Sciafe from Southampton University.

Talk topic: The LOFAR radio telescope is currently the largest radio telescope network in the world. And the westernmost station of this vast array is located in Hampshire, a mere 10 miles from Winchester. Please join Dr Scaife for a fascinating journey into deepest space and deepest Hampshire as she discusses the truly amazing facilities we have on our very doorstep. 

 Tickets for the event are on sale at the Winchester Discovery Centre, costing £3. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

LOFAR is one of Southampton University's 60 at 60 Achievements

The University of Southampton celebrates it's 60th birthday this year. As part of the celebrations for this, they have made a list of 60 world changing achievements, and LOFAR is number 21 on that list.

Celebrations for this event will include installations around the Southampton campus to celebrate the achievements (for details see here). LOFAR will be celebrated by the installation of an antenna outside the physics building. This antenna will have a QR code which people can use to learn more about the project. 

The University of Southampton will also hold a public open day on June 30th to celebrate. Tickets are not required for the public open day, but if you sign up in advance you can be entered into a competition to win an iPad. The Soton Astrodome will take part, running a specially designed 45 minute planetarium show about LOFAR every hour from 11am-4pm. This show is free to members of the public, but will have limited spaces. Sign up sheets will be available on the campus from 11am. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Radio Transients Meeting in Oxford this Week

A joint meeting of the ThunderKAT (the MeerKAT Transients Key Science Project), the LOFAR Transients Key Science Project, and TRAPUM (Transients and Pulsars with MeerKAT) is happening this week in Oxford, UK.

For more information see the meeting website.

New Map of the International LOFAR Telescope

Here is a great new map of the International LOFAR Telescope which has been made by ASTRON. It's available with or without the international stations labelled. (Click on the caption for the highest resolution versions hosted at ASTRON's page of LOFAR pictures).

The International LOFAR Telescope. Credit: ASTRON

The International LOFAR Telescope: Credit ASTRON

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Colliding galaxy cluster unravelled

The below is a press release put out today in support of the paper: First LOFAR observations at very low frequencies of cluster-scale non-thermal emission: the case of Abell 2256, van Weeren et al. A&A in press (arXiV:1205.4703)

Galaxy cluster Abell 2256 imaged at 60 MHz with LOFAR

An international team of astronomers has used the International LOFAR Telescope from ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, to study the formation of the galaxy cluster Abell 2256. Abell 2256 is a cluster containing hundreds of galaxies at a distance of 800 million lightyears. ‘The structure we see in the radio images made with LOFAR provides us with information about the origin of this cluster, explains lead author dr. Reinout van Weeren (Leiden University and ASTRON). The study will be published in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. The research involved a large team of scientists from 26 different universities and research institutes.
LOFAR has made the first images of Abell 2256 in the frequency range of 20 to 60 MHz. What came as a surprise to scientists was that the cluster of galaxies was brighter and more complex than expected. Dr. van Weeren: ‘We think that galaxy clusters form by mergers and collisions of smaller clusters’. Abell 2256 is a prime example of a cluster that is currently undergoing a collision. The radio emission is produced by tiny elementary particles that move nearly at the speed of light. With LOFAR it is possible to study how these particles get accelerated to such speeds. ‘In particular, we will learn how this acceleration takes place in regions measuring more than 10 million light years across’, says Dr. Gianfranco Brunetti from IRA-INAF in Bologna, Italy, who together with Prof. Marcus Brüggen from the Jacobs University in Bremen, coordinates the LOFAR work on galaxy clusters.
LOFAR was built by a large international consortium led by the Netherlands and which includes Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Sweden. One of the main goals of LOFAR is to survey the entire northern sky at low radio frequencies, with a sensitivity and resolution about 100 times better than what has been previously done. Scientists believe that this survey will discover more than 100 million objects in the distant Universe. ‘Soon we will start our systematic surveys of the sky that will lead to great discoveries’, says Prof. Huub Röttgering from Leiden University and Principal Investigator of the 'LOFAR Survey Key Project'.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Reinout van Weeren, astronomer, Leiden University and ASTRON. Tel.: +31 71 527 5864. E-mail: rvweeren@strw.leidenuniv.nl
Prof. Huub Röttgering, astronomer, Leiden University. Tel.: +31 6 41522603. E-mail: rottgering@strw.leidenuniv.nl
Femke Boekhorst, PR & Communication, ASTRON. Tel.: +31 521 595 204. E-mail: boekhorst@astron.nl

Monday, May 14, 2012

Over 800 People Visit LOFAR Telescope in the Netherlands

News item copied from ASTRON website: (please visit there for more pictures).

Visitors getting a tour of one the many LOFAR LBAs in The Netherlands.

Over 800 people visited the LOFAR telescope last Saturday during the open day at ASTRON. The day was organized in the context of the socalled EU Kijkdagen, an initiative of the Northern Netherlands Provinces (SNN). On these viewing days organizations in the Netherlands that received funding from the European Union (EU) can open their doors to the public.
ASTRON invited visitors to come and see LOFAR, the largest radio telescope in the world. Here they could feel like astronomer or engineer and perform an observation with the telescope, get a tour at the telescope in the field, learn about an even larger telescope than LOFAR and lie back and relax during a virtual tour through the universe.
For ASTRON, this day was also important with respect to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA). This is a global project in which twenty countries worldwide cooperate to build an even larger and more sensitive radio telescope than LOFAR. The SKA will be built in South Africa or Australia. Internationally, ASTRON is one of the major players in this project. In the Netherlands, ASTRON has set up the SKA Northern Netherlands project (SKA-NN) to, in cooperation with industry, strengthen its position in the race to build the SKA.
The activities on the open day were suitable for young and old. Many children participated in the fun lab where they could solder together a disco broche or a walking light.
There was also a workshop where children made their own pulsars (the remnants of exploding stars). The most beautiful creations were made here!
Children and adults could sit back on soft cushions in the mobile planetarium of the University of Groningen and enjoy a journey through the universe. Already after two hours the planetarium was completely booked for the whole day.

Astronomers and engineers gave tours at the ASTRON and LOFAR talked about astronomical research with this telescope LOFAR why is important for the Square Kilometer Array.
There was a good and friendly atmosphere during the day; visitors were very interested in the activities at ASTRON and waited patiently if there is a waiting line, for example at the solar telescope, when the sun sometimes took a while to come out from behind the clouds. The tour guides in the field also got a few showers but happily, this did not spoil the fun. Many thanks for all the hard work of the volunteers!

You can find more information about these Kijkdagen on: http://www.europaomdehoek.nl/

Good News for Irish LOFAR

Some good news for iLOFAR - the planned Irish contribution to LOFAR appeared in the Irishtimes.com today.

Click here to download the i-LOFAR brochure.

Test of Irish times article:

Desmond to invest in radio telescope for Birr 

DERMOT DESMOND has pledged financial backing for plans to build a powerful new telescope that will allow scientists to eavesdrop on objects in space.

Mr Desmond met a group of Irish scientists last Friday to discuss the building of a state-of-the-art radio telescope at Birr Castle, Co Offaly. He agreed to provide some funding for the development of the project.

The telescope, costing €1.2 million, would be the biggest investment in Irish astronomical equipment since the building of the Great Leviathan Telescope by William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse, at Birr in the 1840s. It ranked as the largest telescope in the world for more than 70 years.

“We still have a ways to go to get to €1.2 million to purchase and install the station, but is a step in the right direction,” said Prof Peter Gallagher of Trinity College Dublin, who is a member of the consortium behind the plans.

The telescope would consist of a number of antennae to detect low frequency radio waves such as those emitted by ancient astronomical objects formed shortly after the Big Bang. Up to 50 radio telescopes of this type already exist – in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, and the UK.

These facilities have been linked together in a network called the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), which join to form an even more powerful telescope. Increasing the overall size of the network by building a station in Ireland would enable LOFAR to image distant objects in much finer detail.

The Irish station would be called I-LOFAR, and would be connected to the central processing centre in the Netherlands using a high speed fibre optic network. This connection would be 100 times faster than broadband speeds in Ireland, said Prof Gallagher.

“We have an opportunity to make an investment of €1.2 million to be part of a €150 million European project,” he said. “With I-LOFAR we would have something tangible here in Ireland – not in Chile, or Australia – that the public would be able to come to see.”

Birr Castle was an ideal location for a new station, he said. Ireland is extremely radio-quiet compared with other European countries. In rural areas such as Birr, the very faint radio signals coming from objects from the early universe would be detectable, as there is very little interference here.

The estimated cost of the project for the first five years is €3 million. This would include the expansion of the Science Centre in Birr. Fáilte Ireland has expressed support for the plan, which could increase the appeal of Birr Castle and the area for tourists.

“There is the potential for at least one Nobel Prize in this project,” Prof Gallagher said.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Current Map of International LOFAR Telescope

Using the LOFAR Status Map as a basis, I just made this up-to-date map of the locations of LOFAR stations across Europe.

LOFAR stations across Europe. May 2012. Credit: Google Maps, ASTRON. 

Nice Animations about Building LOFAR

Some nice animations about how LOFAR works and building LOFAR in the below movie (in Dutch). The English caption for the movie reads
A short animation consisting of all animations we have made for the 'Building LOFAR' documentary. The animations show how this new and innovative telescope works and waht is is capable off. The voice-over is Dutch in this case. English is also available and will be uploaded seperately as soon as possible. For more info and detals please visit bluemedia.nl

Monday, April 30, 2012

Deadline for Proposals for LOFAR-UK Stand-a-lone Observations Extended to midnight

There was a glitch with the submission address for the LOFAR-UK call for proposals for stand-alone observations. 

This now appears to be working again (but if you have any problems with it, please let us know).

To account for any problems this might have caused for people, we have extended the deadline until midnight tonight.

For more details see the Announcement of Opportunity.

Open Day at LOFAR Core

Post taken from: LOFAR news, ASTRON.

On Saturday 12 May, ASTRON is organising a LOFAR open day during the 'SNN EU Kijkdagen'. During this event, organised by the Northern Netherlands Provinces (SNN), organisations in the Netherlands that received funding from SNN open their doors to the public. It is not necessary to sign in for the open day.
ASTRON organises fun activities for young and old near the LOFAR field. The theme SNN has for this day is "Innovation". A theme that suits ASTRON perfectly! On this open day you can find out how LOFAR exactly works and how this innovative idea for a giant telescope was developed.
The LOFAR open day committee is in full swing organising activities. The activities range from a mini-fun lab where kids make their own flash light (for a small charge), workshops 'make your own pulsar' (exploded star) and a journey through the Universe in the mobile planetarium of the RuG to tours on the LOFAR field and 'looking' at the sky yourself with a small radio telescope and a solar telescope. Free posters are also available for kids. You can see preview here.
The activities during the LOFAR open day are all free of charge and parking is possible on the location (free). Keep an eye on this web page to stay up to date!
The open day takes place at the Exloërweg 13. There will be signs near the location that you can follow to the open day premises.
For more information, keep an eye on the ASTRON website on www.astron.nl.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Deadline for Proposal for UK Standalone Observations Monday 30th April

A reminder that the deadline for the first call for propsals to use the LOFAR-UK station in standalone mode is 5pm this coming Monday 30th April.

For more details see the Announcement of Opportunity.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

LOFAR Single Station Meeting May 2012 in Nancay, France

The 2012 annual meeting of LOFAR Single Station users will happen in Nancay, France on 9th May 2012.

LBAs in the Snow in Nancay. Image credit: Station de Radioastronomie de Nancay

This annual meeting brings together the local teams and the users of the different international LOFAR stations. This is the opportunity to discuss problems related to the installation, the administration and the scientific and educational use of LOFAR stations in "single station" mode, i.e. when they are not connected to the LOFAR network. The international teams are working on various aspects of "single station" software (see LOFAR wiki), and it is important to maintain a maximum of cohesion and to maximise the visibility of all tools.

Please visit the meeting website for more information. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

LOFAR-UK Call for Proposals for Standalone Observations

View of the LOFAR site at Chilbolton, with the Low Band Array (LBA) in the foreground. Credit: STFC/SEPnet

LOFAR-UK is pleased to announce the opportunity for scientists to carry out shared-risk observations using the UK LOFAR station at Chilbolton as a stand-alone facility. (Observations taken as part of the
International LOFAR Telescope array are co-ordinated through the ILT)

The LOFAR-Chilbolton array operates in the low radio frequency regime, from ~20-80 MHz and 110-240 MHz. The important station parameters (bandwidth, theoretical sensitivity, allowed frequency settings, primary beam, etc) are fully detailed in this document.  Equiped with the ARTEMIS back-end, the LOFAR Chilbolton station offers unique capabilities for tied-array monitoring, ionospheric riometry, solar spectrography, large-area imaging, and other scientific projects.

LOFAR-UK is making available a minimum of 200 hours of observing time using the facility. This call for proposals is open to any interested observer. However, LOFAR-UK is only able to provide observing support and training to scientists working at LOFAR-UK institutes; for external scientists, some degree of experience with the system is required.

Observations will be carried out in shared-risk mode, and will be subject to the commissioning rules of the LOFAR consortium. Of particular relevance is the publication and authorship policy, to which there is also a supplementary short list of LOFAR-UK Builders for observations using Chilbolton as a stand-alone array.

Proposals for use of the facility may be of up to two A4 pages in length, at a minimum of 11pt font. These two pages should include:

* a self-contained scientific justification for the observations
* one paragraph of text describing the proposed goals, written at a level understandable to an interested member of the general public.
* technical information relating to the observations and required observing time
* any figures and references
* for observers external to LOFAR-UK institutions, an indication of their experience with LOFAR observations.

Proposals should be in pdf format, with a maximum file size of 5MB. They should be submitted by email to:

--> lofar-proposals~a.t~stfc.ac.uk

--> by 5pm on 30th April 2012

For further information, see the LOFAR-UK webpages for astronomers, or email lofar-proposals~a.t~stfc.ac.uk

Friday, March 2, 2012

Special LOFAR Edition of the Jodcast

Following their visit to Chilbolton last month to help with the repairs to LOFAR-UK, the Jodcast has just released their special LOFAR edition.

They talk to Dr Neal Jackson (Manchester) about LOFAR itself; Dr Tom Hassall (Southampton) about using it to detect pulsars and (very soon to be Dr) Anna Kapinska (Portsmouth) about how it can be used to study active galactic nuclei.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LOFAR UK Repair Day a Big Success

I just got back from the LOFAR-UK repair day today, and I'm happy to report it was a big success, and also great fun. We finished almost all the repairs from the storm damage last month, and now all but one LBA and one HBA should be running as normal (those last two will be fixed very soon).

Almost 20 volunteer workers (postgrad students and researchers) from the nearby LOFAR-UK Universities in Portsmouth, Southampton and Oxford joined STFC employees for the day of repairs.

We started with the LBA repairs. You might remember that 15 of these in total were damaged and destroyed in the stormy weather - mostly by debris from a broken HBA blowing over the field (and we must not forget again to thank the Chilbolton based STFC staff for their amazing work during the storm to prevent even more damage).

3 of the metal ground sheets were displaced and had to be replaced. Here a crew carry the wire mesh over to its new home.

Where the mesh had been displaced we had to resurvey the site to make sure we put it back in the right place. We did this by measuring distances from the 3 nearest undisplaced antenna. With wavelengths of 1-3 metres, a tolerance of up to 5cm is totally acceptable - but we made sure they were good to better than that where we could. 

Lots of pegs needed to be hammered in again - for example in the below picture where we've just replaced the ground sheet and wire mesh, but we also put 8 extra pegs on each of the 96 LBAs to keep them extra secure the next time the weather turns nasty. That was a lot of new pegs! ;) 

Some of the pegs also got concreted into the ground where they had worked a bit loose. 

Once the ground sheets were back in place (and for the 12 other LBAs where the damage was just to the pole and electronics) we replaced, or put back up the LNAs and poles. In the below picture Derek shows a crew from Portsmouth and Southampton what to do.

Image credit: STFC

The pride in a newly fixed antenna back in the array is clearly evident.

An important part of the job was surveying the field and checking which antennas had been finished. It's surprisingly easy to get lost in a field of 96 LBAs - they all kind of look the same!

Some of the cables needed some attention. This is being done very carefully by Andreas below who hopes to use LOFAR data in his PhD thesis (at Portsmouth).

Spare parts were carefully collected in the below box (properly labelled).

And a final "police sweep" of the field was done at the end of the repairs, to make sure nothing was missed. 

Derek was quite right in his prediction of windy but dry weather, and the Sun even came out towards the end of the day to provide this dramatic shot of the beautiful Chilbolton sky. 

The Chilbolton staff looked after all the volunteers very well, even providing some home baked goodies for our lunch.

Then it was on to the damaged HBA. The railway sleepers which had been temporarily holding things down, and the damaged cover were carefully removed. 

Image credit: STFC

Then a number of us had very important jobs sitting on tile lids to make sure they didn't blow away, while Derek replaced some of the damage polystyrene structure inside the delicate HBAs. Finally we replaced the destroyed lids.

Image credit: STFC
The final job for the HBAs was to survey all the connections tying down the black plastic covers and tighten them where necessary. This involved lying down on the job a bit. No they aren't having a rest - they're working very hard.

A particularly troublesome tie so three heads were better than one!

LOFAR-UK also played host to some visitors for the day. Three members of the Jodcast crew came down from Manchester. You can expect to hear more from them about LOFAR soon. 

We also hosted some media students from Portsmouth Uni CCi who are working on a documentary about LOFAR. 

 Science writer, Dr. Lucy Rogers (@DrLucyRogers) also visited and played a fun game of "guess where I am" on Twitter (Storify of that).

She got to visit the 25m dish along with James Macfarlane, or @rocketengines (who used to work at Chilbolton) and took the below picture of the LOFAR station from up the 25m dish. We're all in that picture busily working on the repairs, although even with our high vis jackets you can't spot us at all..!

Image credit: Dr Lucy Rogers
And we also had a visit from the Andover Advertiser, Chilbolton's local newspaper, who have covered LOFAR before.

All in all it was a successful and fun day, and an interesting change from our usual jobs!