I-LOFAR Presentation at Birr Town Council

Thanks to Michael Loughnann, Chairman of Birr Town Council, and Denis Duggan of Shannon Development Agency for organising a lovely evening all about I-LOFAR in Birr. Peter Gallagher, the I-LOFAR consortium head, gave a presentation on the project to around 40 people, which included local business owners, teachers, and town councillors, who all seemed to meet the I-LOFAR project with great enthusiasm and interest.

Many were interested in the development it will bring to the local IT and broadband infrastructure, and the impact it will have on tourism and the local economy. There was huge interest on what I-LOFAR will mean to schools, both locally and all over the country. A number commented on it’s potential as a national landmark for school science tours and day-trips, where children can come to see a state of the art scientific facility in the midlands of Ireland, and learn about the engineering and science involved in the project.

It was great to see such interest from the Birr residents, and also fantastic to hear numerous ideas of how to progress  to building a LOFAR station in Birr in the near future. Thank again to the Council and SDA!

Peter’s presentation can be downloaded from figshare.com.

First Solar Radio Burst Observed by I-LOFAR Test Array!

The I-LOFAR test array of four Low Band Antennas (LBAs) hooked up to two low cost e-Callisto receivers was installed at Birr Castle Demesne on April 18 and 19, 2013. As luck (of the Irish?) would have it, the test array picked up a number of Type III radio bursts on April 22, which were associated with a very impulsive M-class flare in sunspot group NOAA 11726 These are shown in the figure above, together with X-ray data from NOAA’s GOES satellite.

Solar radio bursts come in lots of different forms, ranging from long-duration broadband Type IV storms from electrons in large post-eruption coronal loops, to highly impulsive Type III bursts from near-relativistic electrons streaming along open magnetic field lines. The latter are associated with periods of elevated solar activate, when solar flares and coronal mass ejections are being produced by the Sun.

Unfortunately the Sun has been very quiet in recent times, so you can imagine how happy we were when only three days after installing the Birr test array, a solar flare occurred. And what’s more, a nice clear set of slightly polarised Type III bursts were picked up by the array – proof that the array is working and that Birr Castle is a great site for an International LOFAR Station!

I-LOFAR Test Array Installed at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly

The I-LOFAR test array consists of 4 Low Band Antenna (LBA) elements which were installed at Rosse Observatory (www.rosseobservatory.ie) in Birr, Co. Offaly. The I-LOFAR test array will test the capabilities of the LBA antenna elements individually and also linked together. The site seen in the photograph has a great view of the southern sky and also extremely low radio frequency interference which makes it ideal for the construction of the I-LOFAR station on the ground of Birr Castle.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inaugurated as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the discoverer of ‘pulsars’, was recently inaugurated as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin. As a research student in Cambridge in 1967, she detected unusual radio pulses coming from beyond the solar system and helped identify the pulses as emanating from rapidly spinning, super-dense, collapsed stars, subsequently named ‘pulsars’. Her landmark detections were made using a low frequency radio telescope similar to LOFAR.

Super-Massive Black Hole

Astronomers have produced one of the best images ever made at the lowest frequencies of giant bubbles produce by super-massive black holes. Click on the following image for the full article:

Ground Planes

The ground planes for the LBA Test Array arrived at Birr Castle and were placed on the site roughly were the LBA’s will be located. The ground planes are 3 x 3 metres in dimensions with a spacing of 15 cm and serve as a reflector for low frequency radio waves.

I-LOFAR Test Array Site

The following site was chosen to host the four LOFAR LBA antenna elements which will be set up and texted starting from January 2013. The site is located in the Rosse Observatory in Birr, Co. Offaly (www.rosseobservatory.ie). The I-LOFAR test array will test the capabilities of the LBA antenna elements individually and also linked together. The site has a great view of the southern sky and it is large enough to contain four 3 metres x 3 metres LBA antennas.


The Science Squad on RTE TV takes an entertaining look at some of the exciting and important scientific research that is currently underway in Ireland. From social networking to rugby tackle analysis and from health care monitoring to air travel, our presenters Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, Kathriona Devereux and Jonathan McCrea travel the country to meet the Irish scientists who are working at the forefront of research and innovation.

On July 12, the Science Squad visited Birr Castle to hear all about one of ireland’s most exciting proposed projects, the I-LOFAR radio telescope.


Dermot Desmond, the Irish financier and philanthropist, has become the first person to become a Founding Member of I-LOFAR. He was quickly followed by generous donations from Denis O’Brien and Joe Hogan.

“This is a great start for the project” according to Dr. Peter Gallagher, who is leading the Irish LOFAR consortium. “We can now begin to make firm plans to install a LOFAR radio telescope in Birr Castle Demesne, and link Ireland into a €150 million European network of radio telescopes.” The project would be one of the largest international science project that Ireland has ever participated in.

“We are now seeking about another 10 Founding Members and a Lead Donor to make this exciting project happen” says Gallagher.  “This is an great prospect for Ireland, which will have direct benefits for Irish research, education, and indeed rural development.”

See the news items on these I-LOFAR investments in the Irish Times and Silicon Republic.