Research Summer Internship Programme with I-LOFAR

Breakthrough Listen sponsored Summer Internship with I-LOFAR

Would you like to spend the conducting research at a world-class radio telescope located in the beautiful historical setting of Birr Castle Demesne? Are you interested in the quest for a scientific answer to one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone in the Universe?

If so, the I-LOFAR Summer Research Internship with Breakthrough Listen is for you!

Breakthrough Listen (BL) is a world-leading, comprehensive program to search for intelligent life in the Universe.  Successful candidates will get an opportunity to participate in conducting experiments with the newly installed instruments at I-LOFAR in collaboration with the BL team.  Over the course of 12-weeks, candidates will gain experience in radio astronomy, data analysis, and instrumentation, and will also have the opportunity to take observations with the I-LOFAR telescope and work with the wider LOFAR research team. They will draw on their knowledge of physics, specifically astrophysics and radio astronomy, to engage with a wide range of visitors to the I-LOFAR Education Centre and through online channels.

The successful candidates will be working closely with our I-LOFAR Education and Public Engagement Manager at the I-LOFAR site in Birr Castle Demesne, Co Offaly, and remotely supervised and mentored by Dr Evan Keane, Jodrell Bank, UK, and Dr Vishal Gajjar, Breakthrough Listen, UC Berkeley, USA.

Tour group in the I-LOFAR Control Room

I-LOFAR Summer Interns checking out the Control Unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a 12 week placement with Trinity College Dublin School of Physics and I-LOFAR, running from June to August 2020 (specific dates TBD), with a stipend of €300 per week.

To apply, please send your CV (max 2 pages), a cover letter, a letter of support from your degree course director confirming your registration in the degree and one letter of reference to education@lofar.ie with subject line I-LOFAR Research Internship no later than Tuesday 31st of March.

For any questions or queries about this role, please feel free to reach out to Vishal Gajjar (vishalg@berkeley.edu) or Evan Keane (evan.keane@gmail.com), cc’ing education@lofar.ie.

This new addition to the I-LOFAR Summer Internship Programme is made possible thanks to support from Breakthrough Listen. This is open to second and third year undergraduate students registered at Irish third level institutions. Applications will be accepted from students of physics, astrophysics and related disciplines.

NOTE: This position is based at the I-LOFAR Education Centre in Birr Castle Demesne, Birr, Co Offaly. Interns will be supervised locally by Prof Peter Gallagher, Director of I-LOFAR (peter.gallagher@dias.ie).

 

 

 

 

 

Continual Professional Development for Teachers – Junior Cycle Science ‘Earth and Space’

Summer Internship Programme with I-LOFAR

Would you like to spend the summer working at a world-class radio telescope located in the beautiful historical setting of Birr Castle Demesne? Do you want a chance to improve your communication skills and learn how to talk engagingly about the subjects you are passionate about?

If so, the I-LOFAR Summer Internship is for you!

The successful candidates will be working closely with our I-LOFAR Education and Public Engagement Manager at the I-LOFAR site in Birr Castle Demesne, Co Offaly. They will assist in various aspects of the Education and Public Engagement programme, including giving guided tours, designing and facilitating workshops, creating social media and website content, and will also have the opportunity to take observations with the I-LOFAR telescope and work with the wider LOFAR research team. They will draw on their knowledge of physics, specifically astrophysics and radio astronomy, to engage with a wide range of visitors to the I-LOFAR Education Centre and through online channels.

2019 I-LOFAR Summer Interns running a space workshop for children

Astronomy in Birr Tours include the Leviathan Telescope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a 12 week placement with Trinity College Dublin School of Physics and I-LOFAR, running from June to August 2020 (specific dates TBD), with a stipend of €300 per week.

To apply, please send your CV (max 2 pages), a cover letter, a letter of support from your degree course director confirming your registration in the degree and one letter of reference to education@lofar.ie no later than Friday 20th of March.

For any questions or queries about this role, please contact I-LOFAR Education and Public Engagement Manager Áine Flood at aine.flood@tcd.ie.

The I-LOFAR Summer Internship Programme is made possible thanks to support from the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme and ESERO Ireland. This is open to second and third year undergraduate students registered at Irish third level institutions. Applications will be accepted from students of physics, astrophysics and related disciplines.

NOTE: This position is based at the I-LOFAR Education Centre in Birr Castle Demesne, Birr, Co Offaly.

 

Exploring how craters are formed on the Moon

February Mid-Term Guided Tours – Astronomy in Birr

This walking tour takes you through nearly 180 years of astronomy in Birr – from the 1840s to the present day – with the two world-renowned telescopes here in Birr Castle Demesne. Explore the history of science and engineering with the Great Leviathan Telescope, and look to the future of science and radio astronomy with I-LOFAR.

Meet at the Great Telescope in Birr at 12:30 this February Mid-Term on Wednesday 19, Thursday 20 and Friday 21 February 2020.

Suitable for all levels and ages, no background knowledge needed – just bring your curiosity!

Free guided tour for all visitors to Birr Castle Demesne, tour is included in General Admission ticket price. For more information check out our February Mid-Term Tours event on Facebook.

 

Supported by Science Foundation Ireland and ESERO Ireland.

A New Perspective on I-LOFAR

This Guest Blog was written by a local secondary school student in Birr who came to visit I-LOFAR and has plans to study Physics at Third Level. 

Hello, I’m Joshua, a sixth-year student of St. Brendan’s Community School Birr. I was recently given the opportunity to avail of a tour of I-LOFAR (the Irish Low Frequency Array). This tour was led by the Head of I-LOFAR, Prof. Peter Gallagher, and the Education and Public Engagement Manager, Áine Flood. On this tour I learned about the fascinating ways in which I-LOFAR works and what it does to broaden the frontiers of science.

 

What is LOFAR?

I-LOFAR Telescope viewed from the air. Credit: Alison Delaney, Birr Castle

At first glance, the above collection of boxes and antennas may not even resemble a simple telescope, never mind being capable of observing the universe as it was billions of years ago. But the Irish Low Frequency Array is a radio telescope. It detects radio waves, which are part of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, similar to visible light and x-rays but less energetic and with longer wavelengths. These qualities make it possible for the waves emitted by distant celestial objects to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere and reach detectors on the ground. This allows us to efficiently build a vast, terrestrial, virtual telescope, spanning the continent of Europe. LOFAR is composed of 12 international stations (like the one we have in Birr) that are electronically connected to a computing facility in the Netherlands. There the data collected by the individual telescopes are collated to form images of unprecedented quality, making LOFAR one of the most sophisticated pieces of astrophysics research equipment.

 

How Does LOFAR Work?

Celestial objects such as stars, pulsars (highly magnetised rotating neutron stars), and galaxies emit a variety of radiation types. I-LOFAR is designed to detect two frequency ranges of radio waves, 10-90 megahertz (MHz) and 110-240 MHz. Unfortunately, the frequencies between 90-110 MHz are used to broadcast FM transmissions, so waves of those frequencies from space are drowned out on earth.

High band antennae on the right, and low band antennae on the left

The low band antennae (pictured above) consist of four receiving wires and an amplifier. Radio waves are absorbed by the wire and produce a voltage, creating an electrical signal. Each antenna has four receiving wires so that the source of the wave can be determined. All antennas are connected to powerful computers at I-LOFAR, where the collected data is converted into useful information. These computers can be accessed by institutions and researchers across Ireland and also by ASTRON in the Netherlands for International research.

 

The Research of I-LOFAR

Astronomers across Europe utilise LOFAR’s immense power and range to research a variety of cosmological mysteries. There are however, ‘Key Science Projects’ (KSPs) that LOFAR excels in researching. A few of these KSP’s are as follows:

  • The Epoch of Reionisation – A period of the universe’s formation particularly suited to radio exploration.
  • All Sky Surveys – The sensitivity and extremely large field-of-view of LOFAR make it an ideal instrument for undertaking deep, large area sky surveys.
  • Transient Sources – Objects such as supernovae, pulsars, accreting supermassive blackholes all release enormous amounts of energy along with radio emissions. LOFAR’s capabilities are very much suited to monitoring these phenomena.

 

As a student of physics, it has been extremely beneficial to see concepts that I only encountered in textbooks being applied in the world in which we live, from simple trigonometry to quantum mechanics. I-LOFAR connects Ireland to the international astronomical community and to the Universe beyond.

Joshua exploring the I-LOFAR LBAs with Prof Peter Gallagher and members of the I-LOFAR Consortium from AIT, TCD and DIAS

I-LOFAR Radio Telescope Reveals Secrets of Solar Shockwaves

The Sun may appear to be a constant force in our solar system, but it’s not as sleepy as you may think. In fact, our Sun can produce giant explosions that release vasts amount of electromagnetic radiation and electrically charged particles into space. These explosions, often referred to as solar storms, can be so fierce that they produce shock waves that propagate towards the Earth. Ultimately these shockwaves can cause a variety of potentially dangerous ‘space weather’ effects including interruptions to telecommunications and power, damage to satellites, and astronauts and passengers on commercial aircraft exposed to potentially lethal  doses of radiation. 

A new paper published in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics by members of the I-LOFAR consortium has provided new insights into how solar storms drive shockwaves.

“On  September 2, 2017, soon after the Irish LOFAR station was turned on, the Sun produced a solar storm that drove a shock wave. We used data from the  NASA and NOAA spacecraft to track the shock wave as it moved through the Sun’s atmosphere, while I-LOFAR was able to detect radio bursts generated by the shock.” said Trinity College Dublin postgraduate student Ciara Maguire, the lead author on the publication.

Caption The Sun’s magnetic fields together is an ultraviolet image of the Sun from NOAA’s GOES spacecraft. The blue arcs tell us where the shock was when a radio burst was observed by I-LOFAR.

These observations enabled scientists to work out how the shock wave accelerated electrons and generated radio bursts. This gives us a detailed insight into how shock waves form and evolve over time. These shocks are a phenomenon found throughout the Universe, including in supernovae, black holes, and distant stars so understanding shocks triggered by the Sun could help to unveil more details about the physics at play.

 

Additional Notes

I-LOFAR is owned and operated at Birr Castle by Trinity College Dublin on behalf of the I-LOFAR Consortium, which includes Trinity College Dublin, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Armagh Observatory & Planetarium, University College Dublin, University College Cork, National University of Ireland, Galway, and Athlone Institute of Technology.

I-LOFAR is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The I-LOFAR fibre link is sponsored by open eir.

Contacts

Ciara Maguire

Postgraduate Research Student

Trinity College Dublin & Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Mobile: +353 86 263 5970

ciara.maguire@dias.ie

Prof. Peter Gallagher

Head of Irish LOFAR Consortium

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies & Trinity College Dublin

Mobile: +353 87 656 8975

peter.gallagher@dias.ie

Learn how to code with CoderDojo and I-LOFAR!

Join I-LOFAR and Coderdojo for a CoderDojo Taster Session in Birr Library on Friday 9th August. The CoderDojo movement believes that an understanding of programming languages is increasingly important in the modern world, that it’s both better and easier to learn these skills early, and that nobody should be denied the opportunity to do so.

Two classes will run throughout the day, at 11:00 – Scratch for Beginners, and at 14:00 – Microbits for Beginners. They are suitable for all ages from 7 to 18 and no experience is required! Under 12s must be accompanied by an adult. There are limited places, so early booking is advised. To book contact Birr Library on (057) 912 4950

 

A Journey Through the Last 100 Years of Astronomy, Coming to Birr in August 2019!

The International Astronomical Union’s 100th Anniversary Exhibition (IAU100) is coming to Birr! I-LOFAR is delighted to be hosting this unique exhibition celebrating the last 100 years of astronomy around the world. It will be launched on Thursday 8th of August and will then be on display from Friday 9th to Friday 16th of August.

For our launch we are very please to say that we will be joined by Professor Tom Ray from the Dublin Institute of Advanced studies (DIAS), one of our I-LOFAR Consortium members. Prof Ray is one of Ireland’s leading astronomers and the Irish representative on the ESO (European Southern Observatory) council. Prof Ray will be speaking at John’s Hall at 18:00 on Thursday 8th August and all are welcome to attend. 

This exhibition is a journey through some of the most significant and surprising breakthroughs that shaped astronomy, technology and culture over the last century. It is underpinned by three universal questions which are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago; 

What is the size and structure of the Universe? 

How do stars form and shine? 

Is there life elsewhere in the universe?

The exhibition has been travelling around the world for the past year, premiering in Vienna at the IAU General Assembly in August 2018, and is now here in Ireland for the next few months. It started in Armagh, until the 31st of July, next stop is Birr, and then it will move on to Dublin, Cork and Galway. 

The IAU100 Exhibition will be displayed in John’s Hall and the I-LOFAR Education Centre here in Birr. Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival will also be taking place from the 2nd to the 10th of August, so be sure to check it all out!

I-LOFAR is hosting the IAU100 exhibition with support from Science Foundation Ireland and Offaly County Council.

AstroLands Launch and I-LOFAR Education Centre Opening

On Thursday 30th May 2019, the I-LOFAR Education Centre was opened and the Astronomical Midlands Education and Public Engagement Programme was launched. The launch was well attended, with honorary guest Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell giving an inspirational speech on the day. Professor Bell Burnell discovered pulsars in 1967 as a student at the University of Cambridge and was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in 2018 for this incredible feat. Other speakers included Professor Peter Gallagher, head of I-LOFAR and Senior Professor at DIAS, and Councillor Danny Owens, Cathaoirleach, Offaly County Council. A reception followed the opening, hosted by Lord and Lady Rosse in Birr Castle.

 

 

The Astronomical Midlands (AstroLands) Programme aims to create an engaging space inside the Education Centre, to launch space camps and workshops for students and schools and to create CPD workshops for upper primary and lower secondary school teachers based on Junior Certificate themes of Earth and Space. AstroLands was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO).

 

The I-LOFAR Education Centre was developed in partnership with Offaly County Council and has been supported by a grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affair’s Rural Economic Development Zone (REDZ) initiative. 

Space Camp 2019 is Go for Launch!

The I-LOFAR Education Team are excited to announce the launch of Space Camp 2019! There will be two camps in July and August this Summer. 

The first, running from the 15th to the 18th of July from 10am-2pm each day, is aimed at young people aged 8-12 and will cover the planets in the Solar System, space exploration and man on the moon. This camp is run in conjunction with Birr Castle.

The second is geared towards teens aged 14-16 and will run for three days in August, from 12th to 14th. This camp will cover a more in depth look at our solar system and explore other cosmic bodies including galaxies and black holes. Stay tuned for more information about times and booking. 

The camps will be held in the I-LOFAR Education Centre and the Pavillion on the grounds of Birr Castle. Contact Birr Castle reception at 057 912 0336 to book your place. Spaces are limited so book now!

Poster for Space Camp 2019