Activities and progress

BALTICS Scientific Conference, Jūrmala-Irbene, 5-6 December 2018

Ventspils International Radioastronomy center (VIRAC) is organizing a two-day event – BALTICS SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE on LOFAR and its related topics on December 05 (Hotel Jurmala SPA, Address: 47/49 Jomas Street, Jūrmala), which will be followed by a BALTICS WORKSHOP on December 06 (Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre of Ventspils University College, Ventspils – Irbene).

THE EVENT is organized in partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) and The University of Manchester (UMAN), as part of the BALTICS project (Building on Advanced LOFAR Technology for Innovation, Collaboration, and Sustainability) funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

THE CONFERENCE will focus on sharing the knowledge and experience that VIRAC has gained in partnership with experts of ASTRON and UMAN in the field of LOFAR technology, data reduction and maintenance . Two main topics on the day will be subjects – instrumentation and data analysis. Programm

THE WORKSHOP will address the basics of International LOFAR Telescope network operations and outline the progress of Irbene, Latvia LOFAR station development, in the context of creation of East-European user consortia. The goal of the workshop is to promote opportunities that are offering expansion of ILT and LOFAR station network, including proposed new stations in Ventspils and Irbene, Latvia. The workshop will include several professional reports covering the above mentioned themes and also expert panel to catalyze outcomes and formulate conclusions aimed to strengthen the existing and to initiate new collaboration.

DELEGATES . It is expected that the event will bring together scientists and organizations from all over Europe as well as related national public authorities, students and other enthusiasts of radio astronomy in order to explore and discuss opportunities and strengths of network creation.




This project has received funding from the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 692257







BALTICS training week 1, Ventspils, 18-22 April 2016

BALTICS Training Week 1 was delivered as part of Work Package 4 (WP4) at the University College, Ventspils, Latvia, from Monday 18 to Friday 22 April 2016. The aim of the week was to provide a basic introduction to two subjects: radio astronomy and radio interferometry.

Both modules were delivered in order to give sufficient background for later training weeks, in particular UMAN Training Week 2 (in August 2016 in Latvia) and the ASTRON training week projected for September 2016 in the Netherlands. The training was delivered by Prof Peter Wilkinson (PNW) and Dr Neal Jackson (NJ) from UMAN.

The programme for the week consists of a mixture of lectures and practical work on the related topics. The aim is to give a wide introduction to radio astronomy (source phenomenology and techniques of radio astronomy) as well as radio interferometry (basic principles, and hands-on examples which should allow participants to reduce simple radio interferometry data from e.g. the JVLA) by the end of the week. The examples and tutorials in the course involve prepared IPython notebooks, as well as examples of radio interferometry data and data handling.

Radio astronomy

The radio astronomy course (PNW) was delivered in the first 2.5 days. It consisted of six lectures covering phenomenology of radio astronomy sources, radiation mechanisms, the theory of antennas and reception of radio signals, noise and radio astronomy receiver systems, and an introduction to interferometry. Each lecture was followed by an extended question session.

Practical work consisted of interactive Python notebooks, developed by Anna Scaife (UMAN) from the BALTICS course team, on synchrotron radiation and the operation of the Dicke switch.

Radio interferometry

The radio interferometry course (NJ) was delivered in the second 2.5 days, beginning on the Wednesday lunchtime and ending at 4pm on Friday 22nd. It consisted of five lectures in concepts of interferometry, the Fourier transform relation between sky brightness and the visibility plane, spherical geometry in astronomical systems, the operation of interferometers, field of view calculations, image deconvolution and production of radio images of the sky, calibration methods for interferometers and the practical solution of atmospheric phase corruption. A large number of hands-on exercises were conducted as part of this course, including: Python notebooks on interferometry simulation; the use of the  Pynterferometer; simulator for demonstrating the effects of different sources and array configurations; an introduction to CASA, AIPS and Difmap, the three major basic radio interferometry software packages; and the use of CASA for making an image of some elementary interferometer data which was used as part of the course.

UMAN Training Week 2 at VIRAC

BALTICS Training Week 2 was delivered as part of Work Package 4 (WP4) at the University College, Ventspils, Latvia, from Monday 29 August to Friday 2 September 2016. It followed the Training Week 1 which had been delivered in April.

The programme for the week consists of a mixture of lectures and practical work on the related topics.

The first aim of the week was to provide an introduction to programming in Python, which is now the de facto programming language of choice in modern radio astronomy. Python is also interoperable with all contemporary radio interferometry software. The second aim of the week was to deliver more advanced training in radio interferometry techniques and more specialist applications, following on from the basic training in interferometry in Week 1.

The original aim was modified slightly, because many new participants attended Week 2 who had not been to Week 1. Parallel sessions were therefore run during the Wednesday, to provide a basic introduction to interferometry to those without previous experience, while discussing more advanced techniques of wide-field imaging.

The training was delivered by four personnel from UMAN. Dr. Neal Jackson (NJ) coordinated and delivered the course in Python in the first two days, as well as the parallel session on basic interferometry on the third day. Dr. Anna Scaife (AS) delivered the advanced material on wide-field imaging on the third day. Professor Keith Grainge (KG) and Dr. Rob Beswick (RB) jointly delivered the training on long-baseline and VLBI techniques on the fourth and fifth days.


ASTRON training week 3, Ventspils, 12-16 September 2016

ASTRON Training Week was delivered as part of Work Package 3 (WP3) at the Ventspils University, Latvia, from Monday 12 to Friday 16 September 2016. The aim of the week was to provide a full scope of basic topics on digital signal processing and to push the student’s knowledge of DSP up to MSc-level.

The lectures were delivered in order to give sufficient background for later training weeks, in particular ASTRON Training Week 4 (in December 2017 in Latvia). The training was delivered by Ronald de Wild from ASTRON.

The programme for the week consists of a mixture of lectures and practical work on the related topics.



Summer School at ASTRON (September 5-9, 2016)

The Fourth LOFAR Data Processing School will take place on September 5-9, 2016 at ASTRON in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands. The school will be hosted by the ASTRON Radio Observatory and the LOFAR project.

LOFAR is delivering scientific and unique data in the relatively unexplored spectral window below 200 MHz. At the present time, 50 operational stations are part of the LOFAR array, of which 38 are located in the Netherlands, and 12 are in Germany, France, Poland, Sweden, and United Kingdom. A new station will soon be built in Ireland. In parallel, several science pipelines have been developed and are able to generate scientific data products to the numerous users who have obtained observing and processing time through the observing Cycles.

The aim of this School is to introduce the LOFAR system to new members of the collaboration who will analyze Cycle data. Students, postdocs, and staff are all encouraged to attend. The School will cover the many aspects of the LOFAR system from the capabilities of the basic station hardware to the software pipelines and science products they produce. Lectures and tutorials will be presented by members of the LOFAR project team as well as staff from the many institutions involved in the collaboration. Hands-on sessions will also be provided to give attendees an opportunity to gain experience with real LOFAR data.

Presentations will be given at a level appropriate for someone new to LOFAR. Familiarity with the concepts of radio interferometry and standard data processing software such as CASA, will be useful, but not required. Minimum requirements should include some familiarity with scripting languages and in particular Python. Parallel sessions for more expert students are also planned.

Attendance will be limited to approximately 40 people. While initial preference will be given to applicants from teams with accepted Cycle projects, space will also be reserved for applicants from the general astronomical community. Therefore all potential LOFAR users are encouraged to apply.

Workshop attendees will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs while attending the workshop.

More details about the Fourth LOFAR Data School will be circulated during the next few weeks. A registration form and methods of payment of the registration fee will be made available online.

You will be reminded by email to visit the website once the registration opens. In the meantime, please mark the aforementioned dates in your calendars. We look forward to seeing many of you in September in Dwingeloo.