A €2m radio telescope, I-LOFAR, at Birr Castle in Co Offaly will be officially switched on today by Minister of State for Research John Halligan. The I-LOFAR is part of a €150 million euro network across Europe and will be used to study the early universe, detect exploding stars, search for new planets and understand the effects of the sun on the earth.
Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of the I-LOFAR Collaboration and Associate Dean of Research Trinity, says the radio telescope will build on the rich history of scientific discovery at Birr Castle.
I-LOFAR is made up of 3,000 individual antennae and 55km of wires and cables spread out across an area the size of a football field. It links into the international LOFAR network, which comprises thousands of antennae that record measurements at the lowest frequencies that can be observed from the Earth. Together it makes up the largest virtual radio telescope dish in the world, with a diameter of 2,000km.
I-LOFAR will be run by a consortium of Irish astrophysicists, computer engineers and data scientists, representing Irish universities and institutes of technologies from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The consortium is led by Trinity College Dublin, with partners from University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Athlone Institute of Technology, the National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Armagh Observatory & Planetarium.