From SKA: “SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper released”

From SKA

The SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper details areas in which the two facilities can be complementary to each other

25 July 2018

A new white paper has been published detailing synergies between the SKA and the European Space Agency’s future Athena telescope.

ESA/Athena spacecraft depiction

The SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper highlights the areas of science where combining data gathered by the two facilities would provide unique insights that would not be available with data from the individual telescopes themselves.

Athena (Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics) will be a space-based X-ray telescope that aims to investigate the “Hot and Energetic Universe” scientific theme, and it is provisionally due to be launched in the early 2030s – making it an ideal contemporary instrument to the SKA. It is one of a number of facilities with which the SKA is exploring possible synergies, with the goal of supporting the wider astronomy community to make discoveries through collaborations across the electromagnetic spectrum.

The white paper was authored by the SKA-Athena Synergy Team, a group of experts based at four leading research organisations: Dr Rossella Cassano (INAF-Istituto di Radioastronomia, Italy), Dr Rob Fender (University of Oxford, UK), Dr Chiara Ferrari (Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, France) and Dr Andrea Merloni (Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany), based on contributions from 25 scientists in eleven different countries.

“While there are many areas of synergy, one of the most exciting is the pin-pointing of the very first generation of stars to have been born in the Universe,” said SKA Organisation Science Director Dr Robert Braun. “The SKA should allow detection of the ionised bubbles surrounding these stars as cavities within the neutral hydrogen emission at the relevant epoch, while Athena would permit direct detection of the ionising sources themselves.”

Another important area is in understanding the growth and evolution of super-massive black holes, like the one at the centre of our own Milky Way Galaxy. “The two-pronged radio/X-ray approach is particularly well-matched to the study these enigmatic objects that are found to reside at the centre of most major galaxies,” Dr Braun added. “While they tend to be particularly bright in the X-ray and radio bands, they tend to be almost invisible in the intervening portions of the electromagnetic spectrum due to the extreme gravitational forces and very high temperatures.”

Next year the SKA Organisation Global Headquarters at Jodrell Bank in the UK will host the SKA General Science Meeting, a major gathering of the international science community interested in the project. Many of the synergies outlined in the white paper will be further discussed there.

To read the full SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper, download a PDF copy here.

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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.