Nieke Roos
16 September

Radboud University Nijmegen’s Radio Lab and Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) will join forces to develop new astronomy instruments. On 20 September, the universities will sign the collaboration agreement and will officially open the virtual Center for Astronomical Instrumentation (CAI). The center’s aim is to develop astronomical apparatus at the limits of technological possibility, together with institutions such as the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron), the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and the Dutch Research School for Astronomy (Nova).

The collaboration builds on the recent experience of the Radboud Radio Lab with the Chinese space mission Chang’e 4 to the ‘dark’ side of the moon. Together with Astron and the Delft company Isis, the lab built the radio antenna on a Chinese satellite that’s now orbiting behind the moon (link in Dutch). The antenna is designed to detect weak radio signals originating from the early universe with the aim of learning more about its origin.

“High-precision measurements require several antennas in space that together form a single large radio telescope. This technology, known as interferometry, is already being used on Earth – as was the case with the first image of a black hole that was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope – but it is not yet possible in space,” says Marc Klein Wolt, director of the Radboud Radio Lab. “The development of this technology of combined radio antennas in space requires the extensive experience in technological innovation that’s available in Eindhoven.”

“For years, we’ve focused on specific technology developments for a wide range of applications, which now includes radio astronomy,” adds Mark Bentum, TUE professor of radio science. “For example, we’ve developed new antennas for 5G applications that can also be used for radio astronomy. At the TUE, we have access to advanced labs and measurement facilities.”

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Earlier this year, the Radboud University and the TUE collaborated on a project in which a team of students from both universities took part in an experimental rocket launch in Sweden (link in Dutch). “As part of this new collaboration, we also plan to exchange students and staff. At both universities, for instance, we have the capacity to appoint two additional PhD students”, states Bentum.