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Astron

Initiator: ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy

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This project was co-financed by the EU, the European Fund for Regional Development and the Northern Netherlands Provinces (SNN), and EZ/KOMPAS.

C'est magnifique: LOFAR goes multi-national

Copyright/Credits: Multi-national LOFAR commissioning teams led by Olaf Wucknitz (Argelander Institut für Astronomie, University of Bonn,Germany) and Reinout van Weeren (Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden).

Nederlandse Versie

For the first time, the signals from antenna stations of the giant radio telescope LOFAR in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have been simultaneously combined together in the LOFAR BlueGene/P supercomputer. This achievement makes the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT), an array with both excellent sensitivity, thanks to the 40 Dutch stations at the heart of the array, and excellent resolving power, thanks to its European dimensions out to 1000 km.

LOFAR, the Low Frequency Array, was built by ASTRON in the Netherlands. It is currently being extended to European dimensions with partners in France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (the Swedish station awaits completion later this year). Combining the Dutch and international LOFAR signals together is an important milestone that truly unites the various stations into a new and powerful facility - the ILT.

The new capabilities now realized, are demonstrated in an amazing sequence of low-frequency images of the bright radio quasar 3C196, located in a galaxy so distant that light takes 6.9 billion years to reach the Earth. This sequence shows the huge field of view that can be uniquely captured by LOFAR and covers an area of the sky equivalent to a staggering 1000 full moons, revealing a stunning variety of objects, surrounding 3C196. Some individual celestial objects may appear rather compact when viewed with the LOFAR core in the Netherlands alone. Now, with the combined multi-national resolving power of the ILT, the structure of such distant objects can be revealed with a resolution as fine as 0.2 arcseconds, close to 1/10000 of the diameter of the full moon.

ILT Director Dr. René Vermeulen of ASTRON is delighted with the news: "Years of design and development work have led to this great achievement. We now have fantastic evidence of the full potential of this revolutionary new telescope, which is drawing great interest from the astronomical community all across Europe, and beyond. Their research interests start in the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere, and go right out to the furthest and youngest parts of the Universe. Our first multi-national result will cement an already close international collaboration of all partners in the ILT".

 

The image to the left shows radio sources in the wide field surrounding 3C196, which is the bright spot at the center of the image (click on the image for the high resolution version).

 

 

 

 

 

The image to the right shows the blow-up of 3C196 from the previous image. Made with the Dutch baselines only, the smallest detail seen in this image is 265 thousand light years across and 3C196 appears as a single source.

 

 


 

 

This image made with the Dutch and the international baselines offers an increase of 30 fold in resolution. The quasar 3C196 is seen to consist of two slightly extended components with the smallest detail in the image being 7 thousand light years.  

 

 

 

Copyright/Credits: Multi-national LOFAR commissioning teams led by Olaf Wucknitz (Argelander Institut für Astronomie, University of Bonn,Germany) and Reinout van Weeren (Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden).

ASTRON initiated LOFAR as a new and innovative effort to force a breakthrough in sensitivity for astronomical observations at radio-frequencies below 250 MHz. 
Development: Dripl | Design: Kuenst   © copyright 2020 Lofar