AN IMPORTANT day in the history of Birr Castle took place on Saturday afternoon when a new space observatory was officially launched. This new observatory could be part of something very exciting indeed because it is possible that one day it could detect the existence of extra-terrestrial life. If the project comes to fruition it will also be part of a system which will expand our knowledge of the early evolution of the universe.
The Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory, which will be opened on Saturday, June 28th, will be used to help better understand solar phenomena affecting everyday life on Earth
Details: 3 pm, Saturday, June 28th, 2014 at Birr Castle Demesne, Birr, Co. Offaly (attending press/photographers are advised to arrive by 2:45 pm to ascend the observatory).
Dublin, June 27th, 2014 – The Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory – a Trinity College Dublin School of Physics teaching and research facility devoted to studying the Sun and its effects on Earth – will be officially opened with a ceremony at Birr Castle Demesne, Co. Offaly, on Saturday June 28th.
The Sun is an enormous ball of hot gas, which keeps our planet hot enough for life to flourish. From time to time though, huge clouds of hot solar gas can be flung into space at hundreds of thousands of kilometres an hour. These ‘solar storms’ can endanger astronauts and cause problems for telecommunications and navigation systems here on Earth.
Scientists will use the observatory and its set of scientific instruments to work out when solar storms erupt from the Sun and when they hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field. Scientists at Trinity have developed the observatory at Birr Castle in the midlands of Ireland to monitor the effervescent Sun’s nearly unpredictable outbursts.
Director of the Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory and Associate Professor in Physics at Trinity, Peter Gallagher, said: “We are delighted to reignite scientific research at Birr and to honour one of Ireland’s greatest innovators of the 1800s, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, by naming the observatory for him.”
Trinity has established links with Birr that stretch back over a century and a half. Indeed, the 3rd Earl was Chancellor in 1862–1867, the 4th Earl was Chancellor in 1885–1908 and the 6th Earl was Pro-Chancellor in 1949–1979. The observatory will enable researchers to study the Sun and its effects on the Earth like no other facility in Ireland. A set of antennae will constantly monitor solar activity, while another antenna will monitor solar effects on a layer of the Earth’s upper atmosphere called the ‘ionosphere’. Ionospheric disturbances can cause drop-outs in high-frequency communications with aircraft. An additional instrument, called a magnetometer, which is operated jointly with the Geophysics Section of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, will continuously monitor disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field. These ‘geomagnetic storms’ can cause deflections in compasses and surges in electricity power grids.
Professor Gallagher added: “A facility like this will also enable Irish students to gain valuable hands on skills in programming, electronics, antennas, and cutting-edge scientific research at a working observatory. Physics graduates are in great demand in high-tech companies and end up working in a wide range of sectors including IT, finance, engineering, education, which are all areas of particular importance to the development of the smart economy in Ireland.”
The LOFAR Test Array is operational once again in the midlands of Ireland after a short break during which upgrades were made to Rosse Observatory (www.rosseobservatory.ie).
During the weekend of 30th of may – 1st of June, the Solar Physics group in Trinity College conducted LOFAR Observations using a single LOFAR international station located in Chibolton, United Kingdom.
The Sun was fairly quiet at the time with only a couple of Type III radio bursts observed, but the observations also offered the possibility to make full sky maps during the course of an entire day. The movie below shows the evolution of celestial objects in the sky during the course of a day as observed by a single international LOFAR station.
The aim is to build an international LOFAR station in Ireland and perform more of these observations in the future directly from the midlands.
The Trinity Solar Physics Group has been working hard over the past three years setting up instruments to measure the causes and effects of solar storms from their observatory in Birr in the Irish midlands. To date, they they have installed a number of antennas to monitor solar radio bursts at 10-400 MHz, a magnetometer, and most recently, a 4-element LOFAR Low Band Antenna (LBA) test array. But this is just the start, and a collaboration of Irish universities now plan on installing a LOFAR station in Birr. To assess the suitability of Birr as a site for a LOFAR station, the LOFAR team in Holland kindly lent us a LOFAR High Band Antenna (HBA) in spring/summer 2013. The first radio frequency interference (RFI) survey was carried out in May 2013 using the HBA, which is sensitive to frequencies in the range 100 – 300 MHz. The results shown in the figure below are impressive showing that Birr has relatively clean spectrum in this range, making it a good site for a LOFAR station.
A survey covering the LOFAR LBA range of 10-80 MHz was also undertaken in April 2013 using our Schwarzbeck bicone antenna. As can be seen below, the spectrum at very low frequencies is also quite clean:
LOFAR Colloquia will take place at UCC and UCD in February, where the speaker, Prof. Ralph Wijers from the University of Amsterdam, will discuss the capabilities of the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT), its scientific aims and the present status of the ILT together with science results that have already been published. The speaker will also cover some of the challenges ahead and lessons learned to achieve full exploitation its capabilities.
UCC: Monday, February 3rd, 4pm in room B10A in the Kane Building in UCC.
UCD: Wednesday, February 5th, 4pm in room 1.28, Science Centre North (Physics Building), Belfield
Speaker: Prof. Ralph Wijers, University of Amsterdam
Title: “LOFAR: overview, status, and early results”
The LOFAR radio telescope, now officially the ILT, was built by The Netherlands with Germany, UK, Sweden, and France, and can still accommodate expansion. It is a versatile interferometer operating in the 20-80 and 110-240 MHz frequency ranges, observing the low-frequency sky to unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. It scientific aims range from the epoch of Reionisation to the Sun, from planets to black holes to cosmic rays, and to general exploration of the unknown in the deep sky and in time domain astronomy. I will present a brief overview of the raw capabilities, the present status of ILT and some nice science results that have already come out. I will also discuss some of the challenges ahead and lessons learned to achieve full exploitation ILT’s capabilities.
“An Chruinne Raidió: Réalteolaíocht ag Tonnfhaid Fhada”
“The Radio Universe: Astronomy at Long Wavelengths”
le hAralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, Royal Military College of Canada
Ó d’fhionnaigh Karl Jansky astúchán raidió ó fhoinsí neamhaí go luath sna 1930í, tá borradh tagtha ar réalteolaíocht raidió. Sa léacht seo, déanfar léargas ar an chruinne ag tonnfhaid raidió, agus ar an teicneolaíocht a dhéanann staidéar uirthi a éascú. Ina dhiaidh sin, pléifear tionscadal nua: Tionscadal Eagar an Chiliméadair Chearnógaigh (Square Kilometer Array Project). Ceaptar go mbeidh tionchar réabhlóideach ag an uirlis raidió seo ar ár dtuiscint ar roinnt mhaith de mhórmhistéirí na cruinne: cad é mar a thagann réaltraí chun cinn; cad is “Fuinneamh Dorcha” ann; an réitíonn timpeallachtaí ollréimsí domhantarraingthe de chuid na bpulsár agus na ndúpholl le Coibhneasacht Ghinearálta; cá as a dtagann ollréimsí maighnéadacha sa spás; cad é mar a chruthaíodh na chéad dúphoill agus réaltaí; an ann don bheatha in áiteanna eile sa chruinne? Pléifear ról na hÉireann san Eagar Ísealmhinicíochta (Low Frequency Array, LOFAR) san Eoraip chomh maith, cloch chora ar bhealach Eagar an Chiliméadair Chearnógaigh.
Láthair: 22 Br. Cluaidhe, Baile Átha Cliath 4
Am: 19:30, Déardaoin 30ú Eanáir 2014
Since the discovery of celestial radio emission by Karl Jansky in the early 1930s, radio astronomy has grown dramatically. This talk will provide an overview of the universe at radio wavelengths, and the technology that has facilitated its study. A new project will then be discussed: the Square Kilometre Array. This radio instrument promises to revolutionize our understanding of many of the great mysteries of the universe: how do galaxies evolve; what is Dark Energy; are the strong-field environments of pulsars and black holes consistent with General Relativity; what generates giant magnetic fields in space; how were the first black holes and stars formed; is there life elsewhere in the universe? Ireland’s role in the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) in Europe, a stepping stone to the Square Kilometer Array, will also be discussed.
Venue: 22 Clyde Road, Dublin 4
Time: 19:30, Thursday, 30 January 2013
An t-Aoichainteoir: Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh
Dr Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, Ollamh Taca i Rannóg na Fisice i gColáiste Ríoga Míleata Cheanada (Royal Military College of Canada), Kingston, Ontario. Baineann a chuid taighde le múnlú timpeallachtaí im-réaltaí (Réaltaí Siombóiseacha, Dé-réalta X-ghathacha), in astúchán raidió. Ó thaobh réaltléimh de, bhain sé úsáid as mór-eagair an domhain, mar shampla: Very Large Array (Meicsiceo Nua), Eagar MERLIN (Ríocht Aontaithe), Teileascóp na hAstráile (an Astráil), agus Trasnamhéadracht Ollbhunlíne (Very Long Baseline Interferometry). Is gníomhaí teanga i ndomhan na Gaeilge é an Cainneach fosta, agus é mar chathaoirleach ar choistí stiúrtha de chuid Ghaeltacht Thuaisceart an Oileáin Úir agus Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada.
The Speaker: Dr. Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh
Dr. Aralt Mac Giolla Chainnigh, is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics at the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario. His research has involved the modelling of the circumstellar environments of Symbiotic Stars, and X-ray Binaries, in radio emission. Observationally, he has made use of many of the major interferometric arrays in the world, including the Very Large Array (New Mexico), the MERLIN Array (UK), the Australia Telescope (Australia), and Very Long Baseline Interferometry. Dr. Mac Giolla Chainnigh is also a primary promoter of the Irish language in Canada, chairing the governing bodies of Gaeltacht Thuaisceart an Oileáin Úir and Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada.
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Trinity has a long and distinguished tradition in astronomy and philanthropy. Dating back to the 1780s, a bequest from Provost Andrews funded the first Chair of Astronomy and the construction of Dunsink Observatory.
In recent years, astronomical research at Trinity has gone through a renaissance; the popular undergraduate degree in Physics and Astrophysics was established, and the School’s Astrophysics Research Group has grown to new heights. Such is the international reputation of Trinity Astrophysics, that a paper by the group was published on the front cover of the December 2013 issue of Nature Physics.
But this is just the start. The School now leads an all-Ireland consortium of universities that aims to bring a cutting-edge European radio telescope – LOFAR – to Ireland. We are asking for your support to make this happen.
LOFAR leads the way for a new generation of digital radio telescopes. These telescopes give astronomers fresh insights into the early universe after the Big Bang, find new planets, and enable us to better understand our closest star, the Sun. The current Earl of Rosse is so enthused by the Irish LOFAR project that he has generously donated the use of the remarkable site in the Birr Castle Demesne. This builds on Ireland’s great scientific heritage of the Birr Leviathan Telescope.
In order to realise an Irish LOFAR station, we need to raise €1.5 million. We have already received donations from alumni and leading figures in Irish business and we are now delighted to invite you to help bring LOFAR to Ireland.
Head of I-LOFAR
A MAJOR scientific project to be based in Birr, was showcased in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, where funding is being sought for the Birr Castle Radio Telescope Project.
The Irish LOFAR project aims to establish a next-generation radio telescope at Birr Castle. LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) is a next-generation radio telescope that is currently being deployed across Europe, with stations already operating in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, the UK and France. Other stations are planned in Italy, Poland, Latvia and Ireland. Speaking at a special seminar in the European Parliament on Tuesday, where details of the ambitious project were unveiled to MEPs and the European Commission, MEP Mairead McGuinness said the potential of the project to place a LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope in Birr was beyond imagining.
‘The funding requirement of €1.5 million would be money well spent,’ McGuinness added.
The I-LOFAR project will give Irish researchers access to an additional tool for astrophysics and ICT research; our greater understanding of mathematics, physics and technology will be invaluable for students. The town of Birr, where the Irish LOFAR will be situated, is going to be transformed into an “E-Town” and a destination for the ICT industry.
The project thus far has raised €300,000 with the ultimate target being €1.5 million. Birr has to fundraise €750,000, 50 per cent of the total cost.
I-LOFAR Briefing at EU Parliament
- Mairead McGuinness (MEP)
- Prof. Peter Gallagher (I-LOFAR Lead/Trinity College Dublin)
- Joe Hogan (Openet/European Entrepreneur of the Year 2013)
- Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy (TD – Member of Irish Parliament)
- Sir Brendan Parsons (Earl of Rosse)