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LOFAR and the radio astronomy community

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Natural Sciences

Societal challenges

The basic technology of radio telescopes has not changed since the 1960's: large mechanical dish antennas collect signals before a receiver detects and analyses them. Half the cost of these telescopes lies in the steel and moving structure. A telescope 100x larger than existing instruments would therefore be unaffordable. New technology is required to make the next step in sensitivity needed to unravel the secrets of the early universe and the physical processes in the centers of active galactic nuclei.

LOFAR is the first telescope of this new sort, using an array of simple omni-directional antennas instead of mechanical signal processing with a dish antenna.

To make radio pictures of the sky with adequate sharpness, these antennas are to be arranged in clusters that are spread out over an area of 100 km in diameter within the Netherlands and over 1500 km throughout Europe.

Technical challenges

The Radio Astronomy Competence Centre of EOSC-hub’s project has been supporting the radio astronomical community to find, access, manage, and process data produced by the LOFAR telescope. The CC directly addresses the community’s technology needs – such as computing infrastructure and storage – by offering resources and services from European e-Infrastructures through the European Open Science Cloud.

How EOSC can help and add value

EOSC can add value by providing a compute and storage infrastructure where LOFAR data can be pushed for analysis. In particular, the aspects addressed are federated single sign-on access in a distributed environment and support for data-intensive processing workflows - for example having access to user workspace connected to high-throughput processing systems, offer portable application deployment, and provide integrated access to a FAIR science data repository.

The radio astronomical community is therefore empowered to profit from these resources and increase the science outputs from multi-petabyte radio astronomical data archives of current and future instruments.