Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Update on the POLFAR project

As we reported last year after the Polish announcement, three new antenna stations for International LOFAR Telescope are to be constructed in Poland. At the end of 2013, POLFAR received a grant from the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education for the construction and equipment of three international LOFAR stations as part of their national research infrastructure investment. Today we have the press release from ASTRON regarding the announcement.

Today the contract was signed for the POLFAR construction work. Specifically, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) and the Polish LOFAR consortium (POLFAR) signed a contract for the construction of three new antenna stations for the International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) in the north, west and south of Poland. The signing of the contract took place at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn in Poland in the presence of representatives of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education and local governments, and representatives of the Polish astronomical and space sciences communities.

The new LOFAR stations will be located in Łazy (in southern Poland, operated by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow), Bałdy (in northern Poland, operated by the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn), and Borówiec (in western Poland, operated by the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences). The formal agreement between the POLFAR consortium and ASTRON now marks the start of the preparations for the roll-out of these new stations.

The new map of the ILT showing the POLFAR stations (source: ASTRON)

The International LOFAR Telescope has 38 stations in the Netherlands, six in Germany, and one each in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Connecting the three new ‘POLFAR’ stations will add valuable extra sensitivity to the array. And in particular, the Polish stations give ‘baselines’ of up to 1550 km in the array, making the ILT a much more capable instrument for high resolution imaging of detailed structues. The positions of the new stations also literally provide new angles on ionospheric tomography.

All components for the LOFAR stations, such as the manufacturing of thousands of antenna elements and electronics, are to be contracted out to industry. The construction of the three new stations will start immediately and is estimated to be completed before the end of 2015.