From SKA: “Japan’s VERA telescope granted SKA pathfinder status”

From SKA

3 July 2018

The VLBI Exploration of Radio Astrometry (VERA) telescope, operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, has been officially designated as an SKA pathfinder.

Mizusawa station is one of four across Japan that make up the VERA telescope. (Credit: NAOJ)

In operation since 2003, VERA uses Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) to explore the three-dimensional structure of the Milky Way based on high-precision astrometry of Galactic maser sources. It comprises four Cassegrain antennas each measuring 20 metres in diameter.

VERA joins more than a dozen pathfinder facilities around the globe which are contributing to SKA-related technology and science. Pathfinder telescopes provide valuable information to teams working on the design of the SKA, but unlike precursors they are not located at SKA sites.

“VERA mainly performs K (22 GHz) and Q (43 GHz) band VLBI observations. Therefore, science cases at such high frequencies will be intensively developed with VERA,” said Prof. Mareki Honma, Director of the Mizusawa VLBI Observatory, which operates the telescope as part of NAOJ. “In future, VERA could enhance SKA VLBI capabilities, providing SKA-mid instrument with the intercontinental, longest baseline. Such a potential will also improve the value of the SKA.”

SKA-mid, an array of almost 200 dishes in its first phase, will be hosted in South Africa’s Karoo region, incorporating the existing 64-dish MeerKAT precursor telescope.

SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

It will be engaged in exploring many exciting areas of science, including gravitational waves, pulsars, and the search for signs of life in the galaxy. A later expansion would see SKA baselines extended across the African continent.

While two of the four VERA antennas are on the Japanese mainland, the other two are located on the outlying Ishigaki and Ogasawara islands. NAOJ notes that the difficulty of accessing these sites can provide important lessons about Telescope Management for the SKA, where teams will face similar issues at remote sites in Australia and South Africa.

“NAOJ and the Mizusawa VLBI Observatory have skills in all aspects of VLBI science and its techniques. In particular they bring expertise in high-frequency (for SKA) receiver systems, ADCs and VLBI backends that is of great interest to the SKA,” said Prof. Phil Diamond, SKAO Director-General. Analogue to digital convertors (ADCs) convert signals so that they can be transmitted over optical fibre, an important component for the SKA.

Prof. Diamond added: “We look forward to further collaborations with our Japanese colleagues through VERA and we are hopeful that this will contribute to advancing the SKA case in Japan.”

Read more about VERA on the project’s website, and learn about other SKA pathfinders and precursors around the world here.

See the full article here .


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SKA ASKAP Pathefinder Telescope

SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

Murchison Widefield Array,SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

SKA Murchison Wide Field Array
About SKA

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia. Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of 3 000 km from the central regions. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Construction of phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016. The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.