The Europe-wide, international LOFAR Telescope (Low Frequency Array) is the world’s largest radio telescope and observes radio waves with low frequencies.
LOFAR will map these radio signals and thereby see billions of light years out into space, into the era when the first stars formed, only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. However, it will also investigate the environments of black holes, find extreme galaxies and pulsars, for planets around other stars and even investigate the nearest star, our Sun.
Several members of the OKC take part in the LOFAR scientific activities.
One of the LOFAR stations is located in Onsala, outside of Gothenburg, and is the biggest telescope built in Sweden in the last 35 years. On Monday 26 September 2011 the official opening of the station took place in the presence of Sweden’s minister of education and research Jan Björklund.
Below is one of the first images from the Onsala LOFAR station showing an image of the whole visible sky (horizon-to-horizon) at 70MHz (5m wavelength).
The bright band is the galactic plane and the brightest point source the supernova remnant Cas A. A number of extragalactic sources are also visible as is the Sun. The resolution of the Onsala LOFAR station working in this ‘stand-a-lone’ mode is about 6 degrees at this wavelength.
However, normally the radio signals the Onsala station collects will be linked together with those from 47 similar stations over the whole of Europe, and sent over Internet to a central supercomputer in the Netherlands. This means huge amount of data traffic: the equivalent of over 7000 DVD films per day just from the Swedish station. The telescope creates images of the sky using a unique combination of computer power and innovative software. In this way the LOFAR’s antennas jointly form a single telescope with a diameter of 1300 kilometres.