Data gathered from the I-LOFAR telescope in Birr, Co. Offaly has been included in a survey published by an international team of astronomers, that has resulted in a “new map of the sky”, which has detected thousands of previously unknown galaxies.

Blazars in the LOFAR Two-Metre Sky Survey First Data Release, authored by Associate Professor John Quinn from the UCD School of Physics and PhD student Sean Mooney, was published last week and details how the team studied “blazars in the low-frequency regime with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution.” This is a breakthrough in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, as according to the paper, “the blazar population has been poorly understood at low frequencies because survey sensitivity and angular resolution limitations have made it difficult to identify megahertz counterparts.”


Mooney explained the team’s interest behind the project, “we’re interested in studying high-speed jets of plasma that are ejected from supermassive black holes, and the survey is a goldmine of information for us. Now that the data are public, it will surely prove to be a useful resource for many other astrophysicists around the world also.”

Using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope, the team have discovered the existence of “hundreds of thousands of previously undetected galaxies.” This data has also led to the new information about the research of the physics of black holes and how galaxy clusters evolve.

The telescope, which utilised low radio frequencies were gathered from a European network of radio antennas, spanning seven countries, mapped 300,000 sources of radio signals to galaxies in the distant universe, billions of light years away from Earth.

In a press release, Associate Prof Quinn said, “The LOFAR survey provides us with an unprecedented view of galaxies with supermassive black holes at their centers, and how they evolve. The sensitivity and resolution of this LOFAR survey is unparalleled at low frequencies, and the technological advancements required to make this possible are relatively recent.”

The research published by Quinn and Mooney is just one set of 26 research papers published in the scientific journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics. Collectively, the data gathered only used the first two per cent of the sky survey. Going forward, the goal is to create “sensitive high-resolution images of the whole northern sky, which will reveal 15 million radio sources in total.”