LOFAR started as a new and innovative effort to force a breakthrough in sensitivity for astronomical observations at radio-frequencies below 250 MHz. The basic technology of radio telescopes had not changed since the 1960's: large mechanical dish antennas collect signals before a receiver detects and analyses them. New technology was required to make the next step in sensitivity needed to unravel the secrets of the early universe and the physical processes in the centers of active galactic nuclei.
LOFAR is the first telescope of this new sort, using an array of simple omni-directional antennas instead of mechanical signal processing with a dish antenna. The electronic signals from the antennas are digitized, transported to a central digital processor, and combined in software to emulate a conventional antenna. So LOFAR is an IT-telescope. To make radio pictures of the sky with adequate sharpness, these antennas are to be arranged in clusters that are spread out over an area of 100 km in diameter within the Netherlands and over 1500 km throughout Europe. Data transport requirements are in the range of many Terabits/sec and the processing power needed is tens of Teraflop/s.
LOFAR is one of the main applications in the BiG Grid project. The observations made with the LOFAR instrument are archived and further analysed on the BiG Grid infrastructure. SURFsara is a Tier1 site of the LOFAR archive, funded by BiG Grid. Our consultants are actively supporting LOFAR developers to build and improve the archive and processing pipelines for analysis.