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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.

Receding horizons behind LOFAR station FR606

Copyright: Ivan Thomas (Nançay observatory)

"The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons" said Edwin Hubble.

Taking Hubble's advice literally, we study radioastronomical progress by taking an elevated viewpoint. The photograph above shows that LOFAR is not the first and only radiotelescope in Nançay, but each instrument operates in a different frequency range and has its unique capabilites.

The line of small dishes in the middle (next to the bright path) is the Nançay Radio-Heliograph (NRH), which is used for solar imaging. Actually, the radioheliograph is a T-shaped array of 42 dishes, but only one of the two arms is visible.

The left half of the photograph is dominated by the huge Nançay Radio-Telescope (NRT). It features a 200x40 m flat reflector (lower part), which can be swivelled around a horizontal axis to reflect incoming radiowaves from the sky towards a 300x35 m spherical primary mirror (upper part). It's total collecting area is equivalent to that of a parabolic dish of 94.4 m diameter.

In the right part of the image, the trained eye can discern the 96 LBA antennae and the 96 HBA tiles of the Nançay LOFAR station, FR606.

If Hubble's words had been taken more seriously (by choosing an even higher vantage position), even more telescopes would be visible: the Nançay Decametric Array, the Codalema network, EMBRACE, ... The 150 ha of Nançay are slowly filling up!

Returning to the ground, we realize that this may not exactly be what Hubble meant. Pushing back the horizons will require a bit more work... but we have no doubts that LOFAR will have its role in making the horizons recede!

Jean-Mathias Griessmeier (Nançay Observatory)

ASTRON initiated LOFAR as a new and innovative effort to force a breakthrough in sensitivity for astronomical observations at radio-frequencies below 250 MHz. 
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