ILTThe International LOFAR Telescope

Contact details:

René Vermeulen
ASTRON, PO Box 2, 7990AA, Dwingeloo

The International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) operates the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) a uniquely powerful telescope operating at low frequencies, 30—240 MHz, that offers state-of-the-art observing capabilities thanks to its phased-array technology with digital beam-forming. LOFAR is a transformational facility providing simultaneous interferometric and beam-formed data, at a multitude of resolutions on different directions on the sky, yielding sensitivity orders of magnitude better than previous telescopes. With its versatility and its unique spectral coverage, The ILT with its unique capabilities, sometimes unavailable to the astronomical community before, has opened up a wide area of scientific subjects such as the near earth environment, solar physics, planetary and exo-planetary science, cosmic ray physics, pulsar astronomy, has offered new perspectives in active galaxies and clusters, and is providing a unique probe of the early universe. LOFAR also offers an unprecedented potential in exploring transient phenomena in the universe. Already one of the most prominent pathfinders for the SKA, and as the only operational prototype of the mega radio- interferometers of the 21st century, the ILT has pioneered the field of scientific observation and data analysis involving huge data volumes, developing modern analysis algorithms and methods and exploiting large scale and diverse computing resources.

The International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) operates the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) a uniquely
powerful telescope operating at low frequencies, 30—240 MHz, that offers state-of-the-art observing
capabilities thanks to its phased-array technology with digital beam-forming. The array extends over
2000 km in Europe, with 38 antenna stations in the Netherlands, 6 in Germany, 3 in Poland, and 1
each in France, Sweden, and the UK, connected by fibre to the high-performance central data
processing and archive facilities in Groningen, and further distributed systems. These, separately
owned, facilities are jointly operated by the ILT. ASTRON provides the central operating
organization; individual owners are responsible for the operation of their station and data
connection.
LOFAR is a transformational facility providing simultaneous interferometric and beam-formed data,
at a multitude of resolutions on different directions on the sky, yielding sensitivity orders of
magnitude better than previous telescopes. Furthermore, its ground-breaking ability to buffer large
amounts of data at the element level provides a unique capability to perform retrospective imaging
of the sky on short timescales. It is currently the largest radio interferometer in the world both in
collecting area and number of elements, a feature that will be unsurpassed in the next decade.
Already one of the most prominent pathfinders for the SKA, and as the only operational prototype of
the mega radio-interferometers of the 21st century, the ILT has pioneered the field of scientific
observation analysis involving huge data volumes. While thus allowing the user community to break
important new scientific ground in a wide range of areas of astrophysics ranging from the near Earth
environment to the early Universe, it is challenging concepts of data analysis, taking a step further
in the exploitation of powerful, shared, computing facilities, distributed data analysis and use of vast
archival datasets. Finally the legacy of the Long Term Archive will multiply the scientific impact of
LOFAR data.
With its versatility and its unique spectral coverage, LOFAR offers new capabilities into a wide area
of scientific subjects, in some cases unavailable to the astronomical community before. The ILT has
opened up new areas of study in the near earth environment, solar physics, planetary and exoplanetary
science, cosmic ray physics, pulsar astronomy, has offered new perspectives in active
galaxies and clusters, and is providing a unique probe of the early universe. LOFAR also offers an
unprecedented potential in exploring transient phenomena in the universe.
With the scientific exploitation of LOFAR underway for the past 3 years, the ILT along with the
astronomical community is considering the next steps to maximally leverage the already existing
LOFAR infrastructure, while also evolving towards an upgraded telescope that will remain
scientifically world-leading and unique in the coming decade and even in the era when SKA/SKA2 is
operational. From a technical point-of-view, the ILT is considering an improved antenna design and a major
upgrade to the station electronics effecting in doubling the station collecting area and maximizing
the instantaneous frequency coverage. Expanding the number of international stations will further
improve what is already the world’s best long-baseline low-frequency interferometer. Funding
opportunities from national and international sources are considered.

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