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Radio Telescope in Search of First Stars, Galaxies and Extraterrestrial Life

LOFAR
Space.com snapshot. J. McKean and M. Wise, ASTRON

In search for the first stars and galaxies along with potential signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy will soon connect more than 20,000 radio antennas over the Internet to find unexplored radio frequencies.

As reported in Space, the Low Frequency Array, LOFAR, a multi-purpose sensor array is believed to be the “most complex and versatile radio telescope ever attempted," according to Heino Falcke, chairman of the board for the International LOFAR Telescope.

LOFAR is will consist of banks of thousands of antennas in 48 stations in the Netherlands and Europe, so far 16,000 antennas and 41 stations are up.

Additional stations may be added.

“We can always come along later and add additional stations," said Michael Wise at ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

Designed to monitor low-frequency radio waves, LOFAR will be able to analyze scars on hydrogen that was left from the first stars and analyze how the radio signals from this gas changed over time.

"This is a pivotal phase in the early evolution of the universe, stretching from 400 million to 800 million years after the Big Bang," Ger de Bruyn of ASTRON told Space.com.

"We'd like to know when exactly it happened, how it happened, how fast it happened."

Additionally, LOFAR is set out to scan artificial radio emissions in search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the next couple of years.

LOFAR is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

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