LOFAR: The largest radio telescope which operates at the lowest ratio frequencies that can be observed from Earth

Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) is the largest, as well as, the most sensitive low-frequency radio telescope of the world. It is now operated ASTRON, which is the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

It might be astonishing that a niche field like Radio Astronomy is a driver for novel competence & innovation on the European scale. Furthermore, this field sets a template for future fundamental science in structuring the ‘perfecting the European endeavor’ as the Dutch Prime Minister ‘Rutte’ put it so expressively in the last year.

Here we propose that Low-Frequency Array is a key example of how modern facilities leads to the sharing & building of competencies. It is one of the most successful stories of research infrastructures on a European scale.

ASTRON is a leading institute of the world in the development, exploitation, & scientific use of radio telescopes. Developing pioneering radio telescope instrumentation is rarely a task that one institute or even one country can achieve. It needs collaboration, durable relationships and knowledge exchange: in addition to this, as it is fundamental science with expensive facilities, it must be beneficial for all parties involved.

The International Low-Frequency Array Telescope (ILT) is a foundation under Dutch law. The 8 institutes & countries who currently own LOFAR stations are the members of the ILT. The main aim of the ILT is to exploit the LOFAR telescope under common policies to maximize its science output. Access to LOFAR observing is open to all scientists worldwide following a competitive peer-reviewed process known as ‘open skies’ in the astronomy discipline.

LOFAR, which now connects 52 antenna stations in 8 European countries to powerful computers in the Netherlands, Groningen, forms the largest radio telescope & operates at the lowest radio frequencies which can be observed from Earth.