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Radio Telescope Arrives In Birr

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Radio Telescope Arrives In Birr thumbnailOne of the seven large trucks which arrived in Birr early on Friday morning, bearing in their containers the parts which will make up Ireland's Radio Telescope, which will be part of the pan-European telescope system.

SEVEN large trucks arrived in Birr early on Friday morning, bearing in their containers the parts which will make up Ireland's Radio Telescope, which will be part of the pan-European telescope system.

The telescope will be located in Birr Castle and its construction is on time and on budget. It's set to begin operating by the end of the summer.

A couple of months ago the groundwork at the telescope's site was completed, which entailed bringing electrical cables to the site and draining and levelling the large field. Now the field is flat, a platform is in situ and the area is safe from flooding. 

Professor Peter Gallagher, Head of the Irish LOFAR Consortium, said the equipment in the seven trucks had travelled from Holland. 'We will install the antennas and equipment during May, June and July, and will be fully operating by the end of the summer.'

 This exciting project could mean the creation of more jobs in Birr and a great broadband service for the town's businesses.

 Its science is also pretty exciting. The telescope will be monitoring solar bursts (which create the beautiful Aurora Borealis) and will be engaged in the search for planets outside our solar system.

Film crews from RTE and BBC Northern Ireland have made documentaries about the Birr Castle station.

 When operational the telescope will be engaged in many tasks. These will include examining radiowaves from other galaxies which will allow astronomers to determine the shape and constitution of galaxies, work which bears similarities to what the Birr Castle Leviathan was engaged in during the 19th Century.

Funding was also granted for the educational centre which will be located beside the radio telescope and will be used for the education of students, many of them from the midlands.

The cutting-edge radio telescope in Birr will connect Ireland to the international LOFAR telescope. LOFAR has stations operating in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, the UK and France.

The impact of LOFAR on a wide range of astrophysical topics will be immense. It will revolutionize studies into transient stars and galaxies; conduct the first studies into the early Universe after the Big Bang; complete the most extensive surveys of galaxies at low frequencies; and provide a new insight into the Sun-Earth connection. LOFAR will have applications in geophysics, meteorology, and agriculture.

Offaly/North Tipperary TD and Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy has welcomed the ongoing progress on Trinity College's i-Lofar project.

'In January last year, €1.4 million in funding was announced by the Government for this Trinity College project. I would like to congratulate Prof Peter Gallagher, Senior Lecturer in Trinity College's School of Physics who has spearheaded this project from the beginning and worked tirelessly at local, national and international level.

'It is hugely encouraging to see the telescope equipment finally arrive on site after many years of designing and planning. The facility which is currently under construction in Birr will be one of the most advanced and sophisticated systems in the world and will be a part of a network of radio telescopes across Europe. The I-Lofar project is a very appropriate successor to the Leviathan telescope which was developed by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845. The I-Lofar facility will provide access to Irish students to ground-breaking research and will continue the tradition of innovation and cutting edge science in Birr.

'I along with many parties invested a huge amount of work in this project and I am delighted to see such progress on site. I was determined to ensure that the necessary political support for this project was secured from the beginning. This project is significant for regional enterprise development and will place Birr on the map as a destination for science and astrology enthusiasts which I have no doubt will bring economic benefits to Birr and the region,' she concluded.

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