South Dome Refracting Telescope

Blog 3 – DIAS and Dunsink!

This week Jane and I are continuing to develop exhibits for the I-LOFAR Education Centre, creating posters and interactive elements to display for the public. Tour numbers have increased as Birr Castle reaches its summer peak, and a large number of people have booked for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing ‘Star-B-Q’ at Birr Castle on Saturday the 20th of July! We’re also currently planning drop in workshops for young people on Thursday the 18th and Saturday the 20th of July.

On Wednesday we visited the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) Astronomy and Astrophysics Department in Fitzwilliam Place in Dublin to attend a talk given by the Director of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), Dr. Sean Dougherty. ALMA is one of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes, located in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The main array consists fifty 12 meter diameter dishes using interferometry (the same technology used in LOFAR) to act as one giant dish. There are another sixteen dishes at the site, four of which are 12 meters in diameter and the remaining twelve with 7 meter diameters. The dishes can be concentrated in a 150 meter area or moved apart to create a baseline of 16 km. They observe the universe in the millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths of light, in search of the formation of galaxies in the early universe and exoplanet formation around distant stars. (LOFAR in comparison observes in meter wavelengths)

DIAS – Director of ALMA talk. Credit DIAS Astronomy and Astrophysics

After the Director’s talk we visited Dunsink Observatory. The Observatory was constructed in 1785 using money left by the provost of  Trinity College Dublin Francis Andrews in his will. It was run for a time by William Rowan Hamilton, the famous mathematician who developed Hamiltonian Mechanics and Quaternions (which are used in 3D Graphics). Many astronomers used the telescope to observe the night skies until Dublin expanded around it and light pollution reduced its visibility. The site was the first in Ireland to be given the title ‘European site of historical significance’ by the European Physical Society in recognition of its history. Today it is run by DIAS and is being refurbished. The large room that once housed the transit circle used to calculate ‘Dunsink Time’ (and hence ‘Dublin time’) now hosts open nights for the public. There are two domes visible at the observatory. The one on the roof of the building housed a smaller telescope said to be used by Hamilton’s students. It is now replaced with a modern refracting telescope. The large ‘South Dome’ on the front lawn houses the original 12 inch refracting telescope. We met some of the summer interns at DIAS who are in the process of creating a museum on the ground floor for the public and they gave us a tour of the incredible artefacts and history within the observatory.

DIAS fron

DIAS Front Door Plaque

Dunsink Observatory

12 Inch Refracting Telescope in South Dome Dunsink

Star Map for the Blind at Dunsink Observatory

Jane and I are taking a road trip to Armagh this weekend to visit Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and the IAU 100 Exhibit so keep an eye out for our next blog!

Blog post written by Jeremy, you can find him on Twitter @jeremy.rigney. Jane is also on Twitter, find her @JaneDooley98

Blog 2 – Observing, Camps and Exhibits

This week Jeremy and I have been finalising preparations for Space Camp 2019, a summer camp for 8-12 year olds run by I-LOFAR and Birr Castle. It will take place over four days from the 15th to the 18th of July and we are really looking forward to it! This has involved lots of arts and crafts, like making planets out of balloons and rice, and cutting up cardboard to make models of the Earth-Sun-Moon orbit. It makes us feel like big children!


Planets made from rice and balloons!


We have also been planning exhibit pieces to be displayed in the Education Centre here at I-LOFAR to showcase what we do and how radio astronomy works. These include topics such as RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), the electromagnetic (EM) and atmospheric absorption spectrums, and the Drake Equation


RFI in radio astronomy is any source of transmission that is within the observed frequency band, other than the celestial sources being observed. Signals from Earth can be much stronger that the signals of interest as they are so much closer, so RFI is a major issue when performing radio astronomy. RFI can be caused by a number of things, like manmade transmitters or natural phenomena such as lightning. To be able to able to observe with LOFAR at high sensitivities, RFI needs to be accurately detected.


The EM spectrum is the range of frequencies and wavelengths of EM radiation. The radio section of the EM spectrum encompasses a much wider range of wavelengths than the visible, and those are the only two types of EM waves that can pass through the Earth’s atmosphere. This means the only types of astronomy that can be conducted from the ground are radio and optical. Others such as x-ray and gamma ray astronomy have to be performed high up the mountains or in space. You could say that LOFAR is very down to Earth! 


The Drake Equation estimates the number of technological civilisations that may exist in our galaxy. There is no unique solution to this equation, but it summarises the concepts which must be considered when questioning the existence of communicative extraterrestrial life. I-LOFAR may be used to assist in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in collaboration with the Breakthrough Listen foundation


This week Jeremy and I got to make observations with I-LOFAR! I was able to observe the Crab Pulsar for 10 minutes and Jeremy looked at two bright millisecond pulsars. We used the new REALTA (REALtime Transient Acquisition Cluster) system, which gives us millisecond time resolution in our observations. We are looking forward to analysing this data in the coming weeks, hopefully we’ll be able to detect the pulses! 


Of course, we are still giving daily astronomy tours from the Leviathan to I-LOFAR and these have been getting quite busy! It’s great to see so many people interested and asking questions. We also had a few canine visitors to add our #DogsofILOFAR, keep an eye out on our Twitter and Instagram for pictures! We have added an extra tour on Saturdays. They now take place at 13:30 Monday -Friday, and at 12:00 and 15:00 Saturday! 


Next Wednesday we will be visiting DIAS and Dunsink observatory in Dublin, we are really excited! Make sure to check back next week for our blog post about this. 


Blog post written by Jane, you can find her on Twitter @JaneDooley98. Jeremy is also on twitter, find him @jeremy.rigney

Blog One – Intern Intro!

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.


Jane and Jeremy, I-LOFAR Summer Interns


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!  

Greenbank Radio Telescope, West Virginia

Image of Greenbank Radio Telescope, one of the previous generation of rotating dish radio telescopes. LOFAR is the beginning of a new generation of ‘software radio telescopes’.

The Irish LOFAR radio telescope at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Ireland. Credit: Alison Delaney, Birr Castle.












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

Trinity Week & codify&Birr!!!!!

Week 8:


Started with editing the new I-LOFAR website, by adding in consortium, and also adding in my blog posts.

I then moved onto POLOFAR data analysis as I am looking at a type 1 storm, and observing its intensity.

Aoife then gave me her education section she had written, so I can add it to the education section of the I-LOFAR website.

I then had a meeting with Alan (web designer), and Eoin (Post Doctorate), about the finalization of the website, which was set live at 18:40.

I then attended my last codify class today where I worked on POLOFAR data. Codify is an amazing workshop for anyone how is new to programming and even people who are pros at programming but want to improve there basic skills.

Trinity Week.


I started with editing the news section of the web page, where I added hyperlinks. Then I moved onto adding images to the gallery of the I-LOFAR website.


I went to Birr with Prof. Peter Gallagher, Joe McCauley, Dr. Eoin Carley, and Aoife Ryan (PhD Student). We started our day at Birr down by the I-LOFAR site where we looked at the progress made on the site since we last seen it, and it has moved along very well and they are ahead of schedule for the deliveries that will be coming in on the 28th of April. Eoin then fixed the computer in the Lord Rosse Observatory so we can now see the data again. Then myself, Peter, and Aoife went to speak to Lord Rosse and his daughter (Lady Alicia Parsons) and the site manager (Grainne), about the plans for the education centre which will be just off the site of I-LOFAR, which everyone loved, which was great!!!! Then we all went to the house we will be staying in during the summer while building I-LOFAR; as we needed to make sure it would fit the twenty of us that will be on site; which it does, it is a beautiful house and there grounds of where it is set is stunning, so, lots of pictures of the grounds will be seen in this blog during the summer.

Site of I-LOFAR.

These are the beautiful grounds of Birr, the bottom picture is of the Great Telescope on the beautiful Birr castle grounds.


Started my day with adding images of yesterday trip of I-LOFAR construction site into the new I-LOFAR website gallery (don’t forget to check it out).

I then continued analyzing the POLOFAR station data.

I hope everyone has an amazing Easter!!!!

Posters, Papers, and Falcons!!!

Week 4:

This week I started with reading Diana (Post Doctorate) thesis; where I covered solar activity; and solar cornea where I looked at the flare energy release; I also looked at evaporation, non-thermal electrons, electrons, radiation, accelerated particles, magnetic loop, hard-x-rays, nuclear gamma rays, and the chromosphere, and the photosphere, and the solar cornea and the GOES (Spacecraft) Flare classification.

Aoife Ryan a PhD student working with Prof. Peter Gallagher sent me a link to online lectures on solar cornea.

In codify we covered numpy, arrays, and plotting (inputting data and labeling the axis and title the plot)and how to use different plots (histogram etc.).

My next assignment for codify is to read in two columns of data and plot them. Then work out how much the stock has decreased by since its peak in 2014.

On Tuesday I continued reading Diana (Post Doctorate) thesis and covered solar radio bursts and the types of radio bursts (Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV), and solar S bursts.

I started on my fourth codify project, where I completed the first part of my assignment, that is to read in the two columns of data and plot them.

I also become a  student member of WITS Ireland (Women in Science & Technology).

On Tuesday evening at the Trinity Biomedical Science Institute (TBSI) I attended a PhD poster presentation as Ioana one of the PhD students in the office was presenting her poster on the “The Early Look of Core-Collapse Supernovae”. There was a prize given out for the dean of research which “Ioana poster won , it was brilliant!

I also spoke to other PhD students who were researching cervical cancer, cornea transplants (using pig’s cornea as there is a lack of human donors), and Nano research in fuel cells.

I continued Diana pager on plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamic (when plasma oscillations can happen),and magnetic reconnection.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) Zoology Society had falcons and owls on display on the physics grounds it was amazing!.( and you can follow them on Facebook. IMG_2936

On Thursday I completed my coding assignment. I have to say that Python is such a nice, easy language to learn, very straight forward and the graphs it produces are very clear, and also the range of graph styles you can use is fantastic. I can say that I will be using Python in my finial year at college and onward in my career.

I also continued Diana’s paper and covered Particles Acceleration, and Radio Emission (brightness of blackbody radiation, intensity of radiation, thermodynamics).

I hope everyone has a HAPPY ST.PATRICKS DAY!!!!

Week Of Reading

Week 3:

Started my week of with reading the paper on “LOFAR: The Low Frequency Array”; were I covered the Processing Pipeline (Standard, Long-Baseline, Known Pulsar, CR Event, Transient Detection) and then I looked at the system performance (System Stability), were I looked at the High Band Antenna (HBA) and the Low Band Antenna (LBA).

I also became a member of “GitHub”( a programming community to share code and help other from around the world.

In Codify I covered creating a list and commands, making 2d lists, and 3d lists; we got an in-class assignment to make a function pick lotto numbers and not repeat the numbers it has already picked, at the end of the class we covered a little on while loops. My third assignment is to write a function or code which will sort a list of elements.

On Tuesday I covered the system performance (UV-Coverage; and Angular Resolution) with an angular resolution equation; and the bandpass; and beam characterization.

For lunch, there was a woman in science lunch were women and men in science had lunch together and discussed issues women face in science. It was interesting but as a young women scientist I have yet to experience any negativity to me being in physics.

On Thursday I read “LOFAR: The Low-Frequency Array”, continued reading the section on system performance, where I covered sensitivity, confusion noise, RFI environment, Image Quality, and Beam-Formed Modes.

I finished reading the “LOFAR: The Low Frequency Array”; where I covered the Key Science Drivers: Epoch of reionization, surveying the low-frequency sky, the transient radio sky (Gamma-ray burst (GRBs)), Pulsar studies and survey (82MHz), Astroparticle Physics, Magnetic Field in the universe, Solar physics, and space weather. Then I covered the Current and Future Developments: Final Construction, and Functionality Enhancement.

Diana a Post Doctorate gave me her thesis to read, which is on “LOFAR Tied-array Imaging and Spectroscopy of Solar Radio Bursts”.

On Friday we had our team meeting were we covered what each member of the team has been up to on their projects since the last meeting.

We got news that the I-LOFAR equipment will come into Dublin Docks on the 27th of April 2017, and will arrive at Birr on the 28th of April 2017.

I-LOFAR visit

Week 2:

Monday was a day of coding and reading research papers on LOFAR capabilities and design. My next assignment for codify is to write a code which will print the numbers from 1 to 100. If the number is divisible by 3, print “BISH!”. If the number is divisible by 5, print “BASH!”. If the number is divisible by both 3 and 5, print “BISHBASHBOSH!”.

Tuesday was an early morning heading to Birr to visit the I-LOFAR site. When we arrived we meet with the haling company that will be taking the equipment onto the site. There was also a BBC Northern Ireland film crew with us on site making a documentary on my supervisor first PhD student who is also a truck driver,and will be haling the LOFAR equipment from the Netherlands to Ireland. I also walked around the site of which LOFAR will be built on, and looked at the entries onto the site which the equipment is to be brought through.

During the week I also covered the Transient Buffer Boards; and the Local Control Unit; used in LOFAR and I then moved onto looking at the Wide Area Network and the central processing and started the software control infrastructure looking at monitoring and control systems; and the calibration of the LOFAR antennas paper.

Later on in the week I covered the monitoring and control system; and the system health monitoring (SHM); and the event triggers; and the Observing Modes; and Interferometric imaging; and the beam-formed modes (Coherent Stokes; Incoherent Stokes; and Fly’s Eye); and the direct storage modes.

I also had journal club last Friday were the Post doctorates covered the papers on “Extreme geomagnetic storms: Probabilistic forecasts and their uncertainties” and “Quantifying the daily economic impact of extreme space weather due to failure in electricity transmission infrastructure”; it was so interesting as they made the papers into power points, which we then had discussions on how these affect may affect Ireland.

Beginning of my 6 month journey

I am a third year physics student studying at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland. Part of my third year is to participate in a 6 month work placement. I have joined the Trinity College Dublin Astrophysics Group under the supervision of  Prof. Peter Gallagher; where I will be working on the I-LOFAR project. These blogs will be weekly and they will cover my time at Trinity College and the construction of the I-LOFAR project.

Week 1:

Starting with a late night workshop called Codify (; were we covered Spyder (Python 2.7). In class we covered the basics; such as spyder IDE (Interactive Development Environment); Installing Modules; Python Concepts; Standard Data Types; Basic Operators; Strings; Lists and Tuples; Indexing and Slicing; and functions.

Spyder (Python 2.7); assignment to write a function or script which asks the user for their height in feet and inches; and return their height in metres; and, asks for the user’s weight in stones and pounds, and return in Kg.

The paper “LOFAR The Low-Frequency Array” ( is the paper I have started reading through; which I have so far covered station configuration; Low Band Antenna; High Band Antenna; and Receiver Unit.

There are three different type of stations the first being the Control Station; which is based near Exloo, Netherlands (24 Control Stations). Then there are remote stations; which there are 14 of them in the Netherlands. The final type of station is the International Stations which there are 8 of them; with the 9th being built in Birr, Co.Offaly, Ireland.

Get Excited for the New I-LOFAR Website & boxes


I received an email early this morning from Alan the web designer for the new I-LOFAR website, to met with him at 3pm, where we discussed the new I-LOFAR website and where everything is on it and what we are keeping (such as the headings), the website look amazing and so modern. For the POLOFAR data I received off Diana, I edited the script that was given to me, to have labels on the  dynamic spectrum.

I then started on one of the I-LOFAR posters which will be on I-LOFAR site for visitors to see “what I-LOFAR is all about”.

In Codify I continued my project on the analysis of shark attacks, were I fixed my NaN problem, and then made a graph of the top 10 shark attacks as a x marker plot.


At 11am I had a meeting with the rest of the I-LOFAR team with Alan the web designer (as they had yet to speak with him), were we discussed what headers that needed to be changed and what content need to be up as soon as possible. So, I am working with Diana (Postdoc) and Aoife (PhD) to do the majority of this website with me.

Also on the 16th of May we will be going to the French embassy as my supervisor is receiving an award for his outreach science in France.


I started my day with editing the new I-LOFAR website, I needed to change a few heading and I cannot create them, as I am not the administrator of the website. On the new website I edited the “What of I-LOFAR?” and “The Build”, where I put in a timeline of the I-LOFAR journey. Later in the day I went to a “manual handling course”, for the build of I-LOFAR.


I spent the day editing the technology section of the website, where we have information of the LOFAR technology, the transport team, the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) , and the International LOFAR station.


Spent the day editing and changing the images in the technology section of the I-LOFAR website. I also added in some more team members, and also the list of collaborators, which I received from Prof. Peter Gallagher. I also watched the Science Gallery (Trinity College Dublin) talk on Autonomous Vehicles of Tomorrow Showcase 2017 on YouTube. But everyone look forward to the 10th of April 2017 as the New I-LOFAR website will be released.


First Analysis of data & Shark Attack!!!


I started my week with “Codify” were the class was started by quickly going over the use of “PIP” which is an installation method, and also the “Anaconda” which is also used to install methods onto Python too, but for my laptop “PIP” seems to work in my command prompt . I then moved onto the codify project, which is to analysis “shark attack” data. I started with the importing of pandas, and read in the excel file. Then I asked for how many males where attacked and how many females where attacked. Then I had got the program to count the activities and which activity had the most shark attacks.


I started to cover how I can remove “NaN” in the excel files on shark attacks. Later in the day I got an email off Joe (Senior Experimental Officer at Trinity College Dublin) to convert the list of equipment from PDF to an Excel. This list contains the material for I-LOFAR project which is coming from the Netherlands.


I started with cleaning up the excel file, which had the materials for the construction of I-LOFAR. I then went over my codify project which I found out how to remove the “NaN” and also how to remove the second time “Swimming” that appears in the top 20 activities that have been involved in a shark attack. I also got the right script to read through the POLOFAR data that Diana gave me.


I had covered some of my codify project for the morning so I made a plan out for myself to complete the codify project on shark attack analysis. I had completed two graphs from the POLOFAR data.


At 12pm I had a meeting with Peter(Supervisor), Aoife(PhD Student), and Eoin(Post Doc), where Aoife discussed her trip to ASTON in the Netherlands, and she got amazing images of the sun and moon!!! Then at 2pm till 5:10pm we had a solar science meeting with PhD students and post docs where we covered “European Radio Telescope Array”, Solar flares, Simulations, Space Weather, Solar Monitor, ASTON Netherlands, Power Network, and plasma flow on the sun. I also spoke at the meeting on what I was doing and what I am aiming to cover next week, as I-LOFAR will be releasing their new website and I will be adding material to it, and also make two posters for the I-LOFAR project which will be used on the site for the public, which will explain to them what I-LOFAR is and what we aim to use it for, and also describe what they are seeing. Peter also gave me a book called “An Introduction to Radio Astronomy”, which is a book for graduate level students and want to do radio astronomy. Then I am also planning on adding to the script Diana gave me to make the graph more appealing, and then to analysis certain frequencies.