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The Netherlands's Foundation for Research in Astronomy (Astron), is building a giant network of radio telescopes that will help researchers study the earliest days of the universe.

Astron already has 14 large radio scopes, but the facility's Lofar project is now building a huge cluster of up to 25,000 simple pyramidal radio antennae, the BBC reports, across a 350km span in the north of the Netherlands. Once they are all in place, they will form the largest radio telescope on Earth.

Director of the project Dr Eugene De Geuss commented: "With the kinds of telescopes we are building now, we are able to detect signals that are so faint that the radiation has taken such a long time to get to us here on Earth that the amount of time is sort of similar to the age of the Universe."

The data collected will be processed by Stella, one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe. One of the scientists involved in the project explains that the equivalent of 100 CDs full of data will arrive at the supercomputer, from the telescope, every second. The data will not be stored, but will be processed immediately. ®

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