What is LOFAR?


The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) is an observatory sensitive to the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. LOFAR is made up of antennas which are clustered into stations.

There are two kinds of antennas - the High Band Antennas (HBA) and the Low Band Antennas (LBA). Both antennas are sensitive to different frequencies of radiation and require different configurations to operate. For more information, see the LOFAR website.

LOFAR Science


There are six LOFAR key science projects. LOFAR is being used to:

  -   Search for redshifted 21 cm line emission from the epoch of reionization.
  -   Conduct large sky surveys.
  -   Hunt for transient radio phenomena and pulsars.
  -   Uncover the origin of high-energy cosmic rays.
  -   Examine the evolution of cosmic magnetic fields.
  -   Study the Sun and monitor space weather.

This image was produced using LOFAR. It shows plasma jets from the black hole at the core of Cygnus A. (credit: J. McKean & M. Wise)

I-LOFAR


LOFAR stations are situated throughout Europe with the core stations located in the Netherlands. A station is under construction in the Republic of Ireland. It is located in Birr, Co. Offaly.

The Irish station will extend the longest baseline to 1,900 km. Increasing the length of the baselines improves the resolution of the array and Co. Offaly is an excellent site due to the minimal radio frequency interference. For more information, see the Irish LOFAR website.

The Irish LOFAR station is being constructed during the summer 2017. For more information on this process, see the blog by the UCD undergraduate students involved in the build.

The LOFAR stations stretch throughout Europe. The station being constructed at Birr in Ireland will extend the size of the array. (credit: ASTRON)

Computing


LOFAR generates enormous quantities of data which poses many major challenges. Supercomputers are required to analyse the data and high data transfer rates are necessary to transport the data from the stations across Europe back to the Netherlands.

The computing is managed by the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). For more information about the technical aspects of the LOFAR computing facilities, see the ASTRON website.

The Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) is the national high-performance computing centre in Ireland. See the Irish Centre for High-End Computing website for more information.

LOFAR at University College Dublin


At UCD, we are using LOFAR to image blazars at high resolution. Blazars are a type of active galactic nuclei which have a relativistic jet inclined at a small angle to our line of sight. By using LOFAR, we can search for diffuse emission around these objects to constrain their morphology. Acquiring data about the blazars at low frequencies allows us to develop an understanding of the underlying physical processes taking place in the jet.

LOFAR offers a new window through which to study blazars and other extreme extra-galactic objects and at UCD the longest baselines are used to maximise this opportunity.

Opportunities to Join the Group


Various funding opportunities are available throughout the year at postgraduate and postdoctoral level:

  -   Irish Research Council postgraduate funding scheme. Opening soon
  -   Scholarship in Research and Teaching at UCD for PhD funding. Closed
  -   Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship for postdoctoral funding. Closed

If you are interested in using LOFAR to study high-energy astrophysical phenomena, please contact Prof John Quinn for more information.