It took Irish researchers seven years to raise enough funds to join Lofar, Europe’s network of radio telescopes, Peter Gallagher, leader of the bid, tells Conor Purcell.
The timing could not have been worse for Irish astronomers. Lofar, the European Low Frequency Array telescope, began life in 2006 when construction on its first component started in the Netherlands. Europe was just a year away from a financial crisis that would lead to a decade of austerity, with Ireland being hit particularly hard. Public debt reached 107 per cent of GDP in 2014, and the government spent €64 billion on bailing out its banks.
So when astronomers came knocking for money to join Lofar in 2010, it was no surprise that its €2-million request was turned down.