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.

I-LOFAR Brochure Launched

A brochure describing the I-LOFAR project is now available for download form the project website. Click on the image below to download a copy.

Ireland requires EUR 1.5 million to build a LOFAR station in Ireland and join the International LOFAR network of radio telescope.

This is a great opportunity for Ireland to engage in a flag-ship European project that is revolutionizing our understanding of the low-frequency radio Universe.


Congratulations to I-LOFAR consortium member, Prof. George Miley, who has just been named a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion.

George was instrumental in conceiving of and setting up the International LOFAR Telescope network, and has been a continuous supported of I-LOFAR.

Well done George!

Check out the article George’s award in the Irish Times.

Visit to LOFAR Potsdam

Members of the I-LOFAR consortium visited the international LOFAR station in Potsdam in March 2012.

We took lots of photos and notes during the site visit, which we have included in the following summary document.

During the visit, we discussed practical issues associated with leveling the ground, drainage, fibre costs, site installation time-scales, and annual running costs. We also learned about single station observing modes.

Thanks to Prof. Gottfried Mann, Dr. Christian Volcks and Dr. Frank Breitling of the Institute of Astrophysics, Potsdam for arranging the visit and showing us round.

LOFAR Telescope First Results!

Scientists from the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) today announced the kick-off of the project’s first all-sky survey at low radio frequencies and its first open call for observing proposals from the international astronomical community. LOFAR, the Low Frequency Array, is an innovative radio telescope built in the Netherlands and across northern Europe. LOFAR will make the still largely unexplored low-frequency radio sky accessible to astronomers for the first time. It will search for the first stars and black holes in the universe, hunt for cosmic radio bursts, pulsars, and ultra-high energy cosmic particles, study the sun and planets, and explore cosmic magnetic fields.

Above is an image of the Cygnus A radio galaxy observed by LOFAR at 240 MHz. LOFAR is being used to study supermassive black holes and the affect they have on their local environment. A classic example of an active galaxy is Cygnus A, which lies in a nearby cluster of galaxies at a distance of about 700 million lightyears. At the center of this galaxy is a powerful active nucleus that emits jets of plasma at relativistic speeds. An early LOFAR image at 240 MHz shown here that these jets extend far beyond the stellar part of the galaxy, up to 200 thousand light years from

the center, before abruptly interacting with the intra-cluster medium at impact points called hotspots. (Image Credits: J. McKean and M. Wise, ASTRON).

There are further detail on these exciting discoveries in a LOFAR press release at the American Astronomical Society on January 9, 2012.

I-LOFAR Project Update

Dr. Peter Gallagher gave an update on I-LOFAR at an ESFRI meeting hosted by Forfas and the Higher Education Authority in Dublin. ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, is a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe and to strengthen its international outreach.

I-LOFAR featured in Irish Times

“As US funding wanes, European scientists are taking the lead in the search for extra-terrestrial life. A network of interconnected radio telescopes is the latest advance – and a bid is in place to link Ireland to the grid, enabling us to take huge photos of the night sky, writes JOHN HOLDEN” in the Irish Times.


“Low Frequency Arrays (Lofar) are giant multipurpose sensor radio telescopes which can look at large portions of the sky all at once,” explains Trinity College astrophysicist and member of the Irish Lofar consortium, Dr Peter Gallagher.

“The kinds of things you can see include hydrogen, which is all over the universe, as well as the sun, Jupiter, quasars, pulsars, exploding stars and remnants of exploding stars – anything that emits radio waves.”

“When looking for ETI through radio astronomy, you look for the kinds of signals that we ourselves might produce,” explains Dr Anna Scaife of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies.

“Natural signals would look more broadband. You try to detect something like airport radar but from another planet. So we’re searching for signals that look man-made. The waves should look narrow and happen at particular wavelengths.”


The Irish LOFAR Consortium has received its strongest support to date from a number of Irish Government agencies and the International LOFAR Consortium. Science Foundation Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy, Discover Science & Engineering, and the Office of the Government Chief Scientist have all expressed their support for this exciting international project. Furthermore, the Institute of Physics and the International LOFAR Consortium are also strongly supportive.

The Letters of Support can be downloaded by clicking on the scanned letters shown below and to the right. They have also been included in the I-LOFAR white paper.

Our focus is now on raising funds to make I-LOFAR a reality. We are considering a number of options, including the EU and philanthropic foundations. Please contact Dr. Peter T. Gallagher if you or your organisation would like to contribute to the I-LOFAR project.


The kick-off meeting of the I-LOFAR Consortium took place in the RIA in Dublin. Over 20 researchers from across Ireland attended the meeting, which also included a talk by Prof. George Miley from the Leiden University.

A copy of the agenda and topics discussed at the meeting can be downloaded from:


Our plan is to hold the next meeting in March or April 2011, and possibly in Birr.