Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center is located in the village of Irbene, in a former Soviet army town, and is currently managed by the Ventspils University College’s Engineering Research Center. Here the 32-meter wide radio telescope - the RT-32, is being used for scientific purposes, and is the largest such telescope in Northern Europe and the eighth largest in the world. Another 16-meter wide telescope - the RT-16, is also in use.
The purpose of the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center is to carry out fundamental research in the areas of astronomy and astrophysics, as well as applied research in space technology.
The parabolic antennas are used for observation of inter-star environments, the Sun, asteroids and other objects flying near Earth, including space debris, as well as objects outside the solar system.
Since the Irbene radio telescope is no longer top secret, guided tours are offered.
The guided tours will not only take visitors around the territory of the complex, but also inside the laboratory, as well as view a special exhibition.
Former military town
After Latvia regained its independence in 1991, it took over Zvaigznite (Starlet) from the Russian army. Latvia also inherited various buildings of the former Soviet army town, with most of them in ruins today. The chief researcher at the Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Center, Juris Zagars, jokes: "It is possible to film a horror movie here called Frankenstein and the KGB, and nobody would need to spend anything on creating the movie set."
Nearby places of interest
In the area surrounding Irbene, there are other noteworthy attractions. Almost nine kilometers further down the Kurzeme coast, you will find the Ovisi lighthouse, built in 1905. It is the oldest surviving navigational structure in Latvia. The same distance away, there is Mikelbaka, the tallest lighthouse in the Baltics, rising to 62 meters. The scenic Irbe River flows past the Irbene radio telescope, popular with boating enthusiasts who like to retreat from the bustle of civilization; not far from here, there is also the Slitere National Park, Cape Kolka, and the unique Livonian Coast, which is the cultural and historical homeland of the Livonian (Liiv) people.