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.

International LOFAR Talk

I-LOFAR was presented at the International LOFAR Telescope Consortium meeting in Amsterdam by Peter Gallagher. The presentation can be downloaded from: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3521586/gallagher_ilt_final.pdf

The presentation was well received by the ILT Board. We have been invited to give an update on our progress in Ireland in June 2011.

I-LOFAR white paper

We have prepared a white paper that outlines our plans for the Irish LOFAR station, which can be accessed at: http://www.tinyurl.com/ilofarwhitepaper

Please do let us know if have any advice on how this project can be progressed or possibly are interested in supporting I-LOFAR. contact Dr. Peter Gallagher (peter.gallagher@tcd.ie).


The I-LOFAR kick-off meeting will take place at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin on Wednesday, January 5 at 2pm. The agenda is: 

    1. Welcome

2. International LOFAR network overview and status

3. I-LOFAR management structure and work packages

4. Irish LOFAR Science

5. Sites

6. Industrial links

7. Education & Public Outreach

8. Funding-raising strategy

9. I-LOFAR time allocation

10. AOB


Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)’s 2010 Science Summit was held in Athlone, where over 300 of Ireland’s leading scientific researchers gathered for a two-day strategic think-in. The theme of this year’s Summit was “Mining Minds – A New Decade of Discovery”.

Peter Gallagher gave a 5-min elevator pitch on I-LOFAR. The talk generated a lot of interests from ICT researchers in particular. The talk can be downloaded from:


posted Nov 23, 2012, 11:06 AM by I LOFAR

LOFAR telescope array expands into Ireland

The world’s largest connected radio telescope is about to become even bigger! LOFAR, the Low Frequency Array, will expand into Ireland in 2016. This is not only great news for Irish astrophysics, but also for the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT).

The plans for a LOFAR station in Ireland have been around for a while, but now it’s official: a LOFAR station will be built this year in Ireland. I-LOFAR, the Irish LOFAR consortium, has been awarded €1.4 million by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Together with €0.5 million in philanthropic grants plus contributions of I-LOFAR members, it is possible to build and exploit the LOFAR station, which will be constructed on the grounds of Birr Castle, located centrally in Ireland.

Today, during a meeting at Birr Castle, Irish Ministers Bruton (Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) and English (Education and Skills) announced the award for I-LOFAR, as one element of a €30 million investment by SFI in research infrastructures.

LOFAR is a world-leading facility for astronomical studies, providing for highly sensitive and detailed scrutiny of the nearby and far-away Universe. LOFAR is designed and operated on behalf of the ILT by ASTRON, the Netherlands institute for Radio Astronomy.

Dr. Rene Vermeulen, Director of the ILT, is delighted with the news: “The added Irish antenna station will be an excellent enhancement, extending the ILT to a pan-European fibre-connected network spanning nearly 2000 km. Such long distances allow exquisitely finely detailed sky imaging capability. And, at least as importantly, the Irish astronomical community will now add their expertise and effort to the “ILT family”, in the pursuit of a great many cutting-edge science questions that LOFAR can answer. Topics range from the properties of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, flaring of the Sun, out to the far reaches of the early Universe when the first stars and galaxies formed.”

According to Prof. Peter Gallagher, Head of I-LOFAR, “The Irish LOFAR station at Birr builds on Ireland’s great scientific heritage of the Leviathan Telescope of Birr and will connect us to the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world. I-LOFAR will also inspire students to study science, engineering and computer science, and attract additional visitors to Birr. It will also act as a magnet to attract technology companies to the area.”

The International LOFAR Telescope is the largest connected radio telescope in the world. There are currently six partner countries: of the 50 antenna stations, 38 are located in the Netherlands, 6 in Germany, 3 in Poland, and 1 each in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Together, these have many thousands of receiving elements. The new Irish station will increase the distances between antenna stations, thus providing finer image details.

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.