Operations & maintenance


The observers are part of the Radio Observatory (RO). They are responsible for everything concerning our telescopes. They are responsible for the observations with the Westerbork Synthese Radio Telescope (WSRT) and the LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope.

Observers prepare observations and track the progress of the observations in the control room. After an observation the observers report on what happened during the observation. They also check what is important for the success of an observation.

Observing programs are defined and developed in close cooperation with (international) astronomers. In case of emergencies the observers will intervene and/or ask for support from other disciplines within the RO, such as hardware/software/network support.


Maintenance handles the available radio telescopes operational. At this moment we are maintaining our Westerbork Radio Synthese Telescope. The telescope consists of 14 dish telescopes, spread over a (base) line of 3 km from east to west.

We have specialised maintenance in the following areas:

  • Mechanics
  • Electronics
  • Cryogenically as a high-frequency technique

The specialised maintenance can be on a regular, but in case of failure we rely on our specialists.

Another telescope of ours is LOFAR (Low Frequency Array). LOFAR consists of about 50 stations, distributed over Western Europe. The core of LOFAR consists of 24 stations near Exloo and 14 stations divided over the Northern part of The Netherlands.

These stations contain two types of not moving antennas. The signals that we receive with these antennas are made into electronic signals by means of digital signal processing. Therefore we don’t need expensive mechanical dishes anymore. The maintenance of our LOFAR telescope takes place in the field of electronics, network and ICT. The group also maintains stations located abroad.

During the so-called maintenance days, and in case of malfunctions, we work together and the observers coordinate the course of the process.

Word of a staff member
Gemma Janssen

From an early age I knew I wanted to become an astronomer, and I chose to study astronomy after high school. During my PhD research, that focussed on the precise measurement of radio pulsars, I gained a lot of experience in observing with the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope. The wide range of project that I […]

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In contrast to popular belief, lightning often does strike twice, but the reason why this happens has remained a mystery. An international research team led by @univgroningen has used @LOFAR to study development of lightning flashes in unprecedented detail bit.ly/2V4hDmQ pic.twitter.com/4dgj…

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