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LOFAR, the World's Biggest Telescope, Is Up and Running 100

Posted by timothy
from the can-we-call-this-a-meta-telescope? dept.
HansonMB writes with this bit from Motherboard: "Back in September, Motherboard ventured into the English countryside to listen to the universe. There lives a brand new piece of Europe's already-massive Low Frequency Radio Array radio telescope: a clever EU-wide installation that uses low-tech antennas and supercomputer-power data processing to transform into a giant mega-telescope, absorbing cosmic radio waves from the full sky." That was then; now, says the article, "In the past month, using signals from the new station, LOFAR has delivered its first EU-UK radio 'pictures.'"
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LOFAR, the World's Biggest Telescope, Is Up and Running

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  • by Seumas (6865) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @06:05AM (#35288546)

    Not only is LOFAR up and running, but it beat out the competing project HINEAR, in record time!

  • by deathcow (455995) * on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @06:06AM (#35288550)

    LOFAR will find a stream of information from an extraterrestrial source. When we decode it, we'll find that it's archives of extraterrestrial warez.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      LOFAR will find a stream of information from an extraterrestrial source. When we decode it, we'll find that it's archives of extraterrestrial warez.

      at which point the MPAA will be sueing the whole galaxy...

    • LOFAR will find a stream of information from an extraterrestrial source. When we decode it, we'll find that it's archives of extraterrestrial warez.

      Or alien pr0n. Which might be less fascinating than we hope
      It is unlikely that real aliens resemble humans in dorky Hollywood outfits.

    • Nah, it will just say "frist post"
    • by agw (6387)
      So, you don't do back-ups, you just broadcast your data into space and hope some other civilization does something like SETI? How do you get the data back and how long will that take?
      • No, it's using space as a backup medium.

        You broadcast your data in a specific direction [which travels at light-speed], and then use your FTL spaceship to get ahead of the beam after several hundred years to retrieve the data.

  • EU-UK? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @06:12AM (#35288562)

    LOFAR has delivered its first EU-UK radio 'pictures.'

    What the hell is "EU-UK" supposed to mean? Did the Conservatives pass a bill without anyone noticing or something?

    • by Spad (470073)

      In addition to being an initialism for European Union, EU is also a shorthand for Europe.

      • Re:EU-UK? (Score:4, Funny)

        by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @06:48AM (#35288674) Homepage
        So not only did the conservatives remove UK from the EU, they now cut it off from europe and let it free to roam in the atlantic ocean?
        • by Spad (470073)

          Traditionally, the UK & Northern Ireland aren't considered as "Europe" in a similar way to Norway/Sweden/Finland

          • in which tradition? the Europe I know of contains the British Islands, and meets Asia at the Ural mountains.

            • Re:EU-UK? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by lxs (131946) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @08:10AM (#35288914)

              The Great British tradition of considering themselves superior to and different from the rest of the world. (To be fair, that is mostly an English trait)

              • Hey, hey, nobody beats the US in considering themselves superior to the rest of the world. America! Fuck Yeah!
                "I learned it from watching you! (UK)"

                (probably just dated myself on that last quote...)

              • The Great British tradition of considering themselves superior to and different from the rest of the world.

                Are there any countries at all that don't consider themselves "superior to and different from the rest of the world"?

            • Re:EU-UK? (Score:4, Informative)

              by xaxa (988988) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:13AM (#35289152)

              in which tradition? the Europe I know of contains the British Islands, and meets Asia at the Ural mountains.

              It completely depends on context.

              If I'm in Britain, and I say to someone I'm thinking of taking a holiday in Europe then it means I'm not going to the UK or Ireland (since I'd say I was going to e.g. Wales). I'm going to multiple countries, otherwise I'd just name the country.

              If I say "Europe is going to have do X because China's doing Y" that includes the UK and Ireland. It might mean just the EU (or EEA, EC, ...), rather than the continent.

              If I'm speaking to someone who isn't European, or if I'm not in Europe, then the UK is included when I say "Europe".

              Some British people don't like the EU. It's usually obvious whether they include the UK when they say "Europe", and will depend on whether they're comparing football to baseball, or regurgitating what they read in the Daily Mail.

              (FWIW, I've been "to America" four times. Two of those trips included Canada as well as the USA, but I don't usually mention that unless questioned further. Canadians might not like that.)

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                I understand it depends on context. But for this particular story, saying "EU-UK" seems kind of stupid. Everything started in the Netherlands, and it involves a bunch of countries from Europe. In fact, they're all from the EU, so that would be enough. I can see that this title is the submitter's contribution, anyway, as the original article specifically uses "EU-wide".

                Regarding your trips to "America": if you told me that, I would assume you were talking about a trip that included latin America. I expect pe

                • What the idiot submitter meant was the UK section of the EU LOFAR antenna had been expanded, which I understood automatically. It's like talking about MS. Which effen division of MS are you talking about? India? EU? Japan? China? NorAm (North America)? S. America? What division?

                  That's what I understood the poster to mean. Of course, I also speak Amglish instead of the Queen's English and yes I'm one of those revolting colonists

              • by Baron_Yam (643147)

                Canada, with 10% of the U.S.A.'s population, lined up right against the border and overwhelmed by their southern neighbour's television, music, and economics... well, we tend to like differentiating ourself whenever possible.

                You can go 'to the Americas' which would mean North, South, and Central America... That'd be a bit of a trip.

                'America' singular is generally taken to mean the United States of America only and to include Canada in that instead of mentioning it separately would be likely be taken either

                • by LWATCDR (28044)

                  Funny but a lot of Mexicans I know like to point out that they are Americans because Mexico is part of North America. As a US citizen a actually tired to stop using American when I was referring to my nationality out of respect for Mexico and Canada and all the rest of the nations of North and South America. Interesting the differences in perception.
                  BTW Canada is a great nation and I am glad we share a boarder with you guys. I have been to Windsor on business and went to Victoria for my honeymoon. I hope yo

            • by tonique (1176513)

              Finns will say they live in Europe. However, Europe (especially the EU) is sometimes contrasted with Finland. This was particularly notable when Finland was going to join the EU. Also now, when populistic EU-critical groups have become more popular recently.

              There is also the term "manner-Eurooppa", ie. 'continental Europe', which doesn't include Finland, Norway or Sweden. The UK isn't part of that either but Denmark probably is.

          • by pacinpm (631330)

            Oh, really?
            PS. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europe [wikipedia.org]

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Traditionally Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

            • by dave420 (699308)
              No, Northern Ireland is part of the UK regardless of tradition or not. It's a well-defined political term that specifically includes Northern Ireland.
              • It's even written clearly on passports as "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". I think it would be quite tough for someone to claim it's only traditionally linked with the UK. Linked with Great Britain, now, that's a different matter - Northern Ireland isn't in Great Britain but we'd habitually call the Northern Irish "British" even though in an absurdly pedantic manner of thinking, they're not. Although you could swing it by pointing out that Ireland is part of the British Isles - wh

                • by dave420 (699308)
                  True indeed. I must pick you up on something, though: "British" can mean "from Britain", where "Britain" is a synonym of "United Kingdom", meaning Northern Ireland is British, but not in Great Britain. Messy indeed :)
                  • I'd say that might be debatable - that comes from common usage. If we're being lunatically pedantic I don't think we can use "Britain" as a synonym of "United Kingdom". Though I highly doubt all that many Northern Irish people are gonna care too much, unless they'd be... unreasonable... about it all. :)

          • by Carewolf (581105)

            Not part of "Continental Europe". Nobody would claim they are not part of Europe.

      • by wvmarle (1070040)
        What you forget to mention is that the UK is a country which is part of Europe, but it's also a member of the European Union.
  • I wonder if they've used it to tune in BBC Radio 4's LW broadcast at 198kHz...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      LOFAR antenna work just above and just below the FM radio bands (the black boxes - HBAs - work at higher freqs, and the spindly things - LBAs - work at lower freqs). What's more LOFAR electronics are designed to supress radiation in the FM frequencies because they are so enourmous compared to the astronomical signals we're looking for.

  • Am I alone in thinking that LOFAR has just read something hilarious?
  • by dtmos (447842) * on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @06:32AM (#35288626)

    ... instead of a PR puff piece, see the LOFAR web site [lofar.org].

  • ..they haven't been LO-FING around!

  • Not simply in the UK (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:01AM (#35288702)
    If the summary had pointed us to the correct website [lofar.org] the few who read the article itself would have seen the lofar isn't simply in the UK [lofar.org]. The LOFAR is to big for that. There is one substation in the UK, most are in the Netherlands (since the center is there), some are in Germany, one in France and one in Sweden. These substations are assembled in a giant phased array by means of a supercomputer. This array can look at multiple parts of the sky at the same time while having a great resolution in low frequencies.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but you have to realise that the British never like to give any credit to the Dutch for anything...

      - The world's largest radiotelescope [lofar.org] is based in the Netherlands.
      - The world's highest rate of cycling [blogspot.com] is in the Netherlands.
      - The Dutch crime rate is so low that they're having to import prisoners from other countries [vorige.nrc.nl] to avoid making prison officers redundant.
      - The Dutch manage to be the world's second largest agricultural exporter [rovinginsight.org] despite having just 0.03% [wikipedia.org] of the world's

      • While most of your items are true, we also have Geert Wilders. The appearance of that fucker is bad enough to compensate for a lot on your list and I hope we are smart enough to prevent him from getting power in the same way and extent Hitler did. My hope is slim, since people are stupid.
    • One of the most interesting consequences is that they can save data from each of the receivers (given enough storage; I worked briefly on the LOFAR data storage and it's a big problem since there's terabyte upon terabyte of data flooding off these things and you'd rapidly run out of space if you kept it all for too long) and then basically point a radio telescope *in software*. The stations themselves have absolutely no pointing at all, they really are just dumb receivers. But with the data put onto a compu

  • His strength is a legend, his skills conquer all, Armed with his power, we never will fall! LOFAR!

  • "LOFAR". ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:23AM (#35288744)

    Wait, if it's " low frequency radio array telescope ", wouldn't it be "LOFART"?

    Don't blame me, but they're the ones who chose the name, I'm just sayin'.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Yup, especially since LOFAR used to refer to a type of sonobouy used by the US Navy... It probably is still in use (although those were older designs even in the 80s/90s - so maybe they moved on).

  • Unfortunately, the first EU-UK radio 'pictures.' it delivered was this. [theamazingpage.com]
  • I haven't got the time to check- about to head out the door.
    VLBA [wikipedia.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @07:58AM (#35288874)

      In some ways yes - in other no. See here: http://blog.lofar-uk.org/2011/02/lofar-largest-telescope-in-world.html

      By the way I'm new to slashdot and trying not to reply annoymously by every time I login in the site dumps me out again. :( I'm Karen Masters - and I run the blog for LOFAR-UK (among other things). I wrote that post above.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by Bucc5062 (856482)

        Are you sure you have a current geek card? Have you boned up and passed the test for required /. memes? Do you live in a basement?

        Try this, "I for one welcome our FAR seeing overlords". If that makes sense then contact cowboy neal and demand access. If not, keep studying.

      • Are you accepting cookies from /.?

      • by gblackwo (1087063)
        That is a good post. I didn't realize the specs of the European VLBI surpassed that of the VLBA- because all the information on the E. VLBI I've ever seen has been poorly documented.
        I realize now you are reigning king of the hill in terms of collecting area and sensitivity, but not resolution.
      • by DMiax (915735)
        Accepting cookies may help. I know that some proxies used at universities some times log you out slashdot.
  • Jocelyn Bell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HuguesT (84078) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @08:19AM (#35288958)

    Interesting to hear Jocelyn Bell in this short video.

    She is the lady, who as a grad student discovered pulsars. Her supervisor, Anthony Hewish, got awarded the Nobel prize for it together with Martin Ryle, but not she. To be fair, Hewish had co-invented the radio-telescope modality (aperture synthesis) that made the discovery possible. Nonetheless this spectacular discovery certainly contributed to his Nobel prize.

    Ms Bell is quite famous in radioastronomy circles and has done lots of good work.

    • Great comment, except it should probably by Prof. Bell (or at the least Dr. Bell). She's worked hard for those titles.
  • How likely is it to catch a Extraterrestrial bimbo sunbathing nude with that :)

  • Of the Hill People ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uc3jMgvmC8

    • Of the Hill People ?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Uc3jMgvmC8

      Came here looking for this. I was not teh disappoint.

  • by v1 (525388) on Wednesday February 23, 2011 @09:31AM (#35289272) Homepage Journal

    The most common interpretation of this is going to be "overall visible mass". Brings up images of those monster dishes.

    But of course this is referring to "largest DISTRIBUTED antenna system". While I realize this is one way to say it, that's like me telling someone I have the "largest computer in the world" because I have three PCs networked together, one in the USA, one in Netherlands, and one in Australia.

    If you're going to say "largest", don't be such a headline whore and at least throw in "distributed" somewhere in the headline. "Most widely distributed" actually is closer on the mark.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      You've misinterpreted the situation. A more apt analogy would be someone claiming to have the largest computer because it has the largest number of cores, not because individual cores are spaced far apart. The collecting area is about 1 square Kilometre, which is the largest of all radiotelescopes.
  • by StikyPad (445176)

    Their telescope so old they built a moat around it? I wonder if there are crocodiles.

  • Much have I have seen, and much have I done, for I am LOFAR of the Hill People!

    You know, I will do battle with my telescope, and lose. I will do battle with my telescope, and win.. and yet, I still lose! And I am supposed to feel great sorrow for it! I swear, by Zeena's teats, if I had my telescope's advantage on the field of war, I would be a god.

  • by slapout (93640)

    LOFAR = Lord of the Far Away Rings?

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