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Dutch SKA Pathfinder technology produces promising first result

Colour-coded image made with the Westerbork/Apertif system showing the dwarf galaxy Leo T shown in blue in the middle, with many distant radio galaxies shown in orange in the background. For comparison we show the field-of-view of the “old” Westerbork telescope in the bottom-left and the size of the full moon on the sky in the bottom right. Apertif can image an area about 40 times larger than the full moon in a single observation. (Credit: Oosterloo/Hut/Apertif Commissioning Team)

Westerbork, the Netherlands, Friday 3 January 2017 – The APERTIF (APERture Tile In Focus) receiver, one of the Dutch SKA Pathfinder technologies being developed at ASTRON, has successfully been used for the first time to produce an image using the Westerbork Radio Telescope (WSRT) in the Netherlands.

APERTIF is a project that explores one of the receiver technologies that enable radio telescopes to image a larger field of view – one of the key technologies for the SKA. It is being tested on WSRT. Until recently, the existing WSRT could only map an area of sky comparable in size to that of the full moon in a single observation. In comparison, the new Westerbork fitted with APERTIF receivers can image a region of sky 40 times larger.

This remarkable performance gain is achieved by placing a receiver array in the focus of each parabolic dish of the WSRT, instead of the single receiver element that the current system employs. Such an array in the focus of a dish is called a phased-array feed (PAF).

“The research and development that led to these new receivers are part of the contribution of ASTRON and the Netherlands towards the new technology that is needed for the next-generation international Square Kilometre Array telescope,” says Ir. Raymond van den Brink, the Apertif Project Manager.

Read the full press release on ASTRON’s website.

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