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Royal visit for ASTRON

On 18 September 2019, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visited the NWO institute ASTRON and the Dwingeloo telescope as part of their "regional visit" to the province of Drenthe. It was a superb opportunity to present ASTRON as one of the jewels of the municipality to the royal couple.

The royal couple was welcomed by ASTRON director Carole Jackson to the Dwingeloo telescope, which is managed by the CAMRAS foundation. CAMRAS volunteer and ASTRON employee Tammo Jan Dijkema explained the history and current use of the Dwingeloo telescope. ASTRON deputy director Marco de Vos talked with the couple about the regional, national and international partnerships that the institute enters into. Astronomer Joeri van Leeuwen subsequently told the story of CORTEX, an international collaboration that investigates the explosive universe by artificial intelligence. The Dutch Research Agenda recently awarded 5 million euros to this project.

As part of the efforts to attract new talent to ASTRON, the royal couple spoke with Daniëla Mikkers, project leader of the Open Science Hub Dwingeloo. She told them how children in the Hub come into contact with the science and technology needed to build and use a radio telescope. The royal couple also met the builders of the scale model of the Dwingeloo telescope, Jorrit Siebenga and Sjouke Kuindersma. The working scale model is normally located in the Open Science Hub.

As the royal couple left, Carole Jackson gave them a special present to remember their visit, a statue with the Westerbork, LOFAR and SKA telescopes engraved on it. It was made by ASTRON's own mechanical technicians.

Three months of intensive preparation preceded the visit, which lasted for a total of 25 minutes. But the extensive and deeply substantive conversations probably mean that the couple enjoyed the visit just as much as the ASTRON employees. In addition, the visit further strengthened the connections between ASTRON and the municipality of Westerveld and the province of Drenthe. The visit also generated a lot of attention from the residents of Drenthe and the surrounding area, and many of them probably did not realise that a leading world institute is located in the middle of the beautiful heathland of Drenthe.

Contact: Frank Nuijens

Newsletter Inside NWO-I, October 2019

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