Hello World, Jeremy and Jane here, we’re interns at the I-LOFAR Education Centre for the Summer! Both of us are undergraduate astrophysics students at UCD and UCC respectively. We’re helping Áine (@aineflood1) create the Education and Public Engagement Programme for the station to promote Astronomy to the public and young people in the midlands.
What is I-LOFAR?
The Irish Low Frequency Array (or I-LOFAR) is a radio telescope located in Birr, Co. Offaly. It is one of 52 stations located across Europe which when connected form the European LOFAR Network. All stations consist of two arrays, low band, operating in the frequency range 10-90 MHz, and high band, observing from 110-240 MHz. The gap in frequencies is due to the presence of the FM radio band, which blocks the weak incoming signals from the universe in that range.
How does it work?
LOFAR isn’t your typical radio telescope. While the majority of radio telescopes rely on large concave movable dishes to observe, LOFAR is different. It’s a software telescope, which means its stationary arrays of antenna rely on software to create beams to ‘point’ at astronomical objects. I-LOFAR is used to observe the Sun, pulsars, and much more!
Ok, what are you guys doing?
Jane and I are planning the schedules for the I-LOFAR and Birr Castle Summer Space Camps 2019. The week-long camps will run from the 15th-18th of July for ages 8-12, and the 12th to 16th of August for ages 14-16. We’re also giving daily Astronomy in Birr tours from the Leviathan Telescope (constructed in 1845) to I-LOFAR (constructed in 2017), showing the timeline of astronomy in Birr Castle over the last 170 years. The I-LOFAR Education Centre opened recently and has space for several exhibits in the planning stage, ideas are welcome!
Sounds cool, so can I visit LOFAR?
Yes, of course! Once you are on the grounds of Birr Castle you can come up to the I-LOFAR Education Centre where Jane or myself would be happy to tell you about the station. Our tours are running Monday-Saturday at 1.30pm throughout the summer. Each day we start at the Leviathan so feel free to come along!
We also hope to begin making our own observations with I-LOFAR in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to hear how we get on!
Blog post written by Jeremy Rigney, you can find him on Twitter @jeremy.rigney. Jane Dooley is also on twitter, find her at @JaneDooley98