Trucking for Science – from the Netherlands with LOFAR

Our extra-terrestrial trucker, Dr Ryan Milligan, made the first collections of parts for the Irish LOFAR telescope from the Netherlands this week. Here he tells us about his astronomical haul from the Netherlands to Birr, Co. Offaly in the Irish Midlands.

When else would a PhD in astrophysics and a truck driving licence be of use? When you are collecting a huge radio telescope of course! Well, this week I-LOFAR team member and truck driver, Dr. Ryan Milligan, collected the first shipment of parts for the Irish LOFAR station from ASTRON in the Netherlands.

Ireland will soon have it’s very own LOFAR radio telescope, which will connect Irish astronomers to the huge International LOFAR Telescope. The international telescope is made up of a thousands of antennas spread across Europe and is being used by Europe’s leading scientists to study the early universe, exploding stars, the Sun and to search for new planets. With the new Irish station, LOFAR will stretch nearly 2,000 km from Ireland to Poland.

And as the luck of us Irish would have it, we have our very own truck-driving astrophysicist, Dr. Ryan Milligan. Ryan has a PhD in astrophysics from Queen’s University Belfast, and has spent most of his career working with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

But before this, Ryan was a truck driver, hauling all kinds of loads for the family fish business in Co. Down. “I still love driving trucks now and again”, according to Ryan. “There’s nothing more relaxing than few days on the road in a Scania with AC/DC at full volume”.

@ryanomilligan: We’re loaded up! Bit of a change of plans but we’re on the road. Now to make it to Zeebrugge in time for the boat back to Dublin …

Ryan was actually Professor Peter Gallagher’s first PhD student back in his NASA days. “I was building a radio telescope and we needed a truck driver, so no better man than Ryan”, said Peter, who is leading the Irish LOFAR station build.

This week is a huge week for the I-LOFAR consortium, as we look forward to receiving the first delivery of parts for the Irish LOFAR station. With the help of our transport partners, Foremost Freight and Noel Howley Logistics, let’s hope all arrives in ship-shape at Birr Castle on Friday.

You can follow the rest of Ryan’s astronomical haul at @ryanomilligan and @i_lofar.

@ryanomilligan: Today was a welcome respite after the insanity of yesterday during the @I_LOFAR haul. Extended update now available: https://youtu.be/jO5KaA4F5KE

RTE News website

A member of the I-LOFAR consortium has won €2 million in funding from the European Research Council to study the birth of stars and planets.

Professor Tom Ray from the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) won the prestigious Advanced Grant against stiff opposition from all over Europe.

The study will involve furthering Prof’s work in the area of exploring what the Solar System would have looked like 5 billion years ago when it began to form.

The proposal, named “Ejection Accretion Structures in Young Stellar Objects” or EASY will use cutting edge observational instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope, the European low frequency radio telescope LOFAR and the facilities of the European Southern Observatory, to improve our understanding of the complex processes involved.

This money will also be used to pay seven researchers at DIAS.

The organisation said the win was a vindication of its vision of the pursuit of excellence and curiosity-driven research.

“These awards are among the most highly sought after in Europe and are extremely difficult to win,” said Graeme Horley, SFI Programme Manager and ERC National Contact Point.

This article was first published on the RTE News website.

 

 

ILOFAR Groundworks Progress

In unseasonably favorable weather, the footprint for the latest LOFAR station (IE613) emerges from the ground at Birr Castle, Ireland. The ground levels are being raised by local contractors, Conneeley Building & Civil Engineering, to counter risks to the array posed by flooding.
Deployment of the antennas is scheduled to begin in spring 2017 after a pause for winter. IE613, when operational, will extend the international LOFAR base line to almost 1950km. Commissioning is expected to be completed in the autumn of 2017.

I-LOFAR Consortium meeting

The I-LOFAR Consortium meeting in the Dining Room of Birr Castle under the portrait of the 3rd Earl. Representatives in attendance from DIAS, UCD, ICHEC, TCD, UCC, NUIG, Armagh, Birr Castle, and the Latvian LOFAR team.

Astronomers open new window into stellar radio astronomy with LOFAR

A research group at the Dublin Insitute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) has recently used LOFAR to detect T Tau, a young sun-like star. This is the lowest frequency detection of a young stellar object to date, and the first ever detection of a young star with LOFAR. This detection was made possible by combining the next-generation quality data produced by LOFAR with high performance computing provided by DIAS and the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC). Observing young stars at these extremely low frequencies offers new ways to characterise their radio emission and paves the way for investigating the formation of stars like our Sun with future radio telescopes such as the Square Kilometer Array.