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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Offaly was once the centre of the world for stargazing - today it takes a giant leap back there

Ireland is to be part of a huge Europe-wide telescope.

THE WORLD’S LARGEST radio telescope will now be based partly in Birr, Co Offaly after the I-LOFAR antenna is switched on for the first time today.

The telescope is part of a network of antennae distributed across Europe that paint a picture of what’s happening in the universe by detecting radio waves that land on earth.

It’s called the Low-Frequency Array, or LOFAR, telescope and is based primarily in the Netherlands but has 11 international stations spread across Germany, Poland, France, UK, and Sweden.

The spread of the stations across the large distances gives a more accurate picture of what’s happening in space and this newest station in Ireland will be furthest west of the antennae.

PastedImage-99714 Source: lofar.ie

The location of this Irish station will be in the centre of the country on the grounds of Birr Castle, Co. Offaly.

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The site already has a storied history in astronomy as it was the site of the Leviathan telescope, a six-foot reflecting telescope that was the largest telescope in the world from 1845 to 1917.

The Irish site was partly funded by a €1.4 million award from Science Foundation Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation says it will fund the annual membership fee for LOFAR.

Minister of State John Halligan will be present to switch on the station and said it will offer a “unique opportunity for research and engagement” for both young people and scientific researchers.

PastedImage-26583 The UK's LOFAR station in in Chilbolton, UK. Source: Lofar.ie

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Rónán Duffy

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