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  • richardmitnick 2:24 pm on February 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SKA, SKA: Tooling up down under for the world's most powerful telescope   

    More about SKA – “SKA: Tooling up down under for the world’s most powerful telescope” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    27 February 2017
    Elizabeth Finkel

    1
    SKA will not only take us to the edge of the universe, it will revolutionise computing. Dragonfly Media / CSIRO

    On a flat, red mulga plain in the outback of Western Australia, preparations are under way to build the most audacious telescope astronomers have ever dreamed of – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    Next-generation telescopes usually aim to double the performance of their predecessors. The Australian arm of SKA will deliver a 168-fold leap on the best technology available today, to show us the universe as never before. It will tune into signals emitted just a million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was a sea of hydrogen gas, slowly percolating with the first galaxies. Their starlight illuminated the fledgling universe in what is referred to as the “cosmic dawn”.

    “It is the last non-understood event in the history of the universe,” says Stuart Wyithe, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

    Like any dream, realisation is the hard part. In 2018, when the first of 130,000 Christmas-tree-like antennae is deployed on the sandy plains of Murchison, an almost uninhabited district of 50,000 square kilometres, it will mark 28 years since its conception.

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia
    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    SKA Murchison Widefield Array
    SKA Murchison Widefield Array

    Epic battles have brought the project to this point – most famously the six-year contest between countries to host the telescope. Australia and South Africa ended up sharing the prize. The SKA’s telescope in South Africa will be built on another flat, red flat plain – the Karoo region of the North Cape.

    SKA Icon

    It has somewhat less lofty ambitions – its dishes will probe only halfway to the edge of the universe. Its moniker, SKA-mid, denotes the mid-range frequencies of radio waves stretched across this distance.

    Australia’s SKA-low, by contrast, will tune into the low frequencies emanating from the extremities of the cosmos. Together the two telescopes will represent “the largest science facility on the planet,” says SKA director-general and radio astronomer Phil Diamond, who is based at Jodrell Bank Observatory in the UK.

    3
    Artist’s impression of the expansion to the current headquarters at Jodrell Bank at U Manchester proposed by the UK

    The game-changing technology that will allow us to hear the whispers of newborn stars against the cacophony of the universe doesn’t involve grinding mirrors to atom-thin smoothness or constructing dishes the size of sports fields. The disruptive technology here is supercomputing.

    Once SKA-low is running, it will generate more data every day than the world’s internet traffic. Dealing with this deluge is a challenge being tackled by hefty global collaborations of academia and private enterprise – and it is by no means clear how it will be solved. “It’s a scale no one has attempted before,” says Peter Quinn, a computational astrophysicist at the University of Western Australia, and director of the International Centre for Radioastronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth.

    ICRAR Logo

    While international mega-science projects have been tackled before – think the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), which operates the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider – when it comes to the SKA, the potential world-changing spin-offs have never been so blazingly obvious.

    CERN didn’t just find the Higgs boson – computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web to manage its information sharing. Wi-Fi was the spin-off when Australian CSIRO astronomers developed ways to realign scrambled radio signals from black holes.

    Mega-corporations such as CISCO, Woodside, Chevron, Rio Tinto and Google are already positioned to collaborate with SKA astronomers around the world.

    A science project of this grandeur, managed across 10 countries, involving dozens of specialist technical consortia and thousands of people, is challenging enough. The question of how to divvy up the pie for construction contracts and the commercial spin-offs that follow adds a whole new, complicated layer.

    But astronomers have a great track record when it comes to teasing their way through gnarly collaborations to deliver triumphs such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    After nearly 25 years of wrangling, the signs are that the first binding SKA treaty will be signed early next year, committing the 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK – to funding and contracts for the 2018 rollout.

    Even with the treaty, SKA will remain a confusing beast: not one telescope but two, located in two countries, with headquarters in a third – the UK. Despite the name, neither of the Phase 1 telescopes slated for construction actually boasts a square kilometre of collecting area. That won’t be realised until Phase 2 of the project, negotiations for which have yet to begin.

    Nevertheless, as the gears of the vast project slowly grind into action, Australia is bracing to host its first global mega-science project. “It will be our CERN downunder,” says CSIRO astronomer Sarah Pearce, Australia’s science representative to the SKA board. But, she adds, “don’t expect a tour. It’s here precisely because there are very few people.”

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    The 200 dishes of SKA-mid to be rolled out in South Africa will probe half way to the edge of the universe. SKA Organisation / Eye Candy Animation (Artist’s impression)

    An idea takes root

    The curious thing about astronomy is that telescopes, as they grow more powerful, turn into time machines. When Galileo peered at Jupiter, he saw it as it appeared some 42 minutes earlier – the time it took for its light to reach him. Hubble’s iconic image of the Horsehead Nebula in the constellation of Orion is a snapshot of how it looked 1,500 years ago.

    Horsehead Emission nebula
    Horsehead Emission nebula

    The astronomers who conceived the SKA had their sights set way beyond the 100,000-light-year dimensions of our own galaxy. The faint signals they seek began their journey more than 13 billion years ago, just a few million years after the Big Bang.

    At that point, the hot plasma of electrons and protons had cooled enough to fuse and form the simplest atom – hydrogen. Except for a slight ripple here or there, our universe was a featureless sea of it. Today, things are different – the sea is dotted with galaxies. But how did these galactic islands form? To find out requires a telescope that can look back to the rippling hydrogen sea of 13 billion years ago. “That’s why the SKA was originally called the ‘hydrogen telescope’,” Quinn says.

    Those who imagined the SKA had a lust for hydrogen. Their appetite had been whet by the Very Large Array (VLA), 27 dishes lying 80km west of Socorro, in New Mexico.

    NRAO/VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA
    NRAO/VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA

    Now known as the Jansky VLA, the telescope generated some of the first detailed maps of atomic hydrogen. The bond between hydrogen’s electron and proton emits a unique 21-centimetre radio wave. Because the universe is expanding, the waves emitted from outer space have stretched by the time they reach us. The futher away, the greater the stretching; hydrogen waves emanating from the edge of the universe measure 1.5m by the time they reach Earth. It’s known as the Doppler effect; on Earth, we experience it when we hear the sound of an ambulance siren deepen as it speeds away, its sound wave stretching as it goes.

    In 1990, on the 10th anniversary of the VLA, the world’s radio astronomers met to celebrate one of the New Mexico facility’s crowning achievements – mapping hydrogen in nearby galaxies. Ron Ekers, an Australian former director of the array, recalls that “everyone was on a high”.

    Not content to rest on their laurels, a small group of visionary astronomers wondered how far the technology could be pushed. Egged on, Peter Wilkinson from the University of Manchester in Britain pitched the idea of reaching out to galaxies at the edge of the universe. A total collecting area of one square kilometre, he figured, should do the job.

    The audacity of the proposal was amazing, Quinn says: “Most telescope improvements aim for a two-to-three-fold increase; this proposal represented a 10,000-fold increase.” That figure reflected a 50-fold increase in sensitivity multiplied by a 200-fold increase in field of view. “The goal was to see a milky way at the edge of the universe,” Quinn adds – and to scour the entire southern sky.

    The breakthrough technology needed to enable this leap did not lie in fancy new telescope designs, but in the explosion of computing power and techniques able to handle massive amounts of data.

    The receivers themselves could be little more than antennas. Tuned to radio wavelengths, they would pick up the extra-long waves of distant hydrogen – coincidentally the same wavelength used by many FM radio stations. “This is where the early universe is broadcasting,” says Quinn. “You just can’t hear it because it’s buried in the crackle.”

    The more antennae, the greater the sensitivity – hence the planned one square kilometre of collecting surface. But the antennae don’t need to be all in one spot. Indeed, the more spread out they are, the sharper the focus.

    How does a forest of radio antennae figure out where in the sky a signal has come from? Interferometry, a technique developed by British and Australian radio astronomers in the 1940s, is the key. It relies on the principle that each antenna in an array receives a signal at a slightly different time. For instance, radio waves coming from the easterly part of the sky hit the eastern-most antennae earlier than those lying further west. By electronically tweaking the delay on each, the entire forest could be made to point in a particular direction of the sky.

    But using interferometry to tune into signals from the edge of the universe would have required filtering astronomical amounts of data; and that was a challenge yet to be mastered.

    6
    Like a forest of metal pine trees: an artist’s impression of some of the 130,000 antennae of SKA-low to be assembled on the red plains of Murchison. They will probe to the edge of the universe.
    SKA Organisation / Eye Candy Animation

    The tussle

    In 2000, a SKA steering committee led by Ekers invited proposals for a home for the telescope. Five countries responded. To help their bid, some built serious prototypes known as “pathfinders”. It resulted in an astronomical bonanza. Australia built the majestic dishes of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and the antenna forest of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA).

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia
    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    South Africa built the seven dishes of KAT-7 and is building the larger SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.
    “SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

    China began work on a prototype which paved the way for the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), the largest single radio dish in the world.

    FAST Chinese Radio telescope , being built at Guizhou Province, China
    FAST Chinese Radio telescope , being built at Guizhou Province, China

    FAST radio telescope, now operating  located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang county Guizhou Province, South China
    “FAST radio telescope, now operating located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang county Guizhou Province, South China

    Geography worked against some of the contestants. The Chinese site wasn’t flat enough. The joint Brazilian-Argentinian bid was let down by a turbulent ionosphere – the uppermost layer of the atmosphere – which distorted the sought-after low frequency radio waves.

    By 2006, Australia and South Africa were the last countries standing. Both laid claim to vast unpopulated regions, free of radio wave interference and with relatively placid ionospheres.

    The South African site’s higher elevation was in its favour. Australia, on the other hand, had an impressive track record in radio astronomy. It boasted some of the world’s first interferometers, built in the 1940s at Dover Heights south of Sydney, and the iconic CSIRO Parkes telescope, operating since 1961.

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia
    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    The contest was fierce, and for good reason: SKA’s benefits clearly stretched far beyond astronomy. “The devices and algorithms developed to pursue SKA’s goals may be the next Wi-Fi, the next multi-trillion dollar technology market,” says Steven Tingay, the former director of the MWA who now leads Italy’s SKA involvement. Whichever country hosted the SKA would be at the heart of the action, attracting and training the next generation of engineers and scientists in advanced manufacturing, telecommunications and high-performance computing.

    Accompanied by the sort of media attention usually reserved for a football grand final, a competitive and secretive bidding process ensued.

    In May 2012, members of the SKA organisation voted to split the array between the Australian and African sites. The South African telescope would observe radio waves from 350 MHz to 14 gigahertz, enabling it to detect signals up to six billion light-years away – a still sparse chapter in the universe’s life story. It would use dishes like those of the JVLA, but dramatically increase speed and sensitivity.

    Australia’s array would detect frequencies in the range of 50 to 350 MHz – ideal for detecting hydrogen signals from the edge of the universe.

    Both would rely on the development of disruptive new computation techniques.

    “We believe we know how to do it, but I’m not hiding the fact that it’s a challenge,” Diamond says.

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    The Murchison Widefield Array is the prototype for the SKA-low. This composite image from the GLEAM survey shows how the Milky Way appears at radio wavelengths.
    Radio image: Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR / Curtin) / GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape: Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

    Building it

    Getting to the Australian site of the SKA gives the words “isolation” and “quiet” whole new meanings. First, you make your way to Perth, itself one of the most isolated cities in the world. Then it’s another one-hour flight to the 35,000-strong port town of Geraldton. From there, bump around for four dusty hours in a four-wheel-drive until finally, on the horizon, you see a succession of towering white 12-metre telescope dishes.

    You have arrived at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. The 36 dishes comprise ASKAP. Despite the name, they are not the prototype for SKA-low. That honour goes to the MWA, a rather less majestic affair that lies hidden in the nearby mulga scrub: 2,048 squat, wiry antennae, resembling a swarm of giant spiders. Unlike ASKAP, the MWA has no moving parts to point to different parts of the sky. That’s because this is a software telescope. It relies on a computer to program different delays into the antennae so signals from the same patch of sky are collected at the same time.

    Amid great fanfare, MWA first came online in mid-2013. According to director Randall Wayth, it has blazed the trail for SKA-low. It is tuned to receive signals from the early universe within the bandwidth of 80 to 300 MHz. It does not have the sensitivity to detect features of the cosmic dawn, but its impressive 30-degree field of view allows it to map the entire visible sky over a few nights. The Galactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA (GLEAM) survey, for instance, mapped bubbles of ionised hydrogen gas and quasars from up to six billion light years away.

    Two trail-blazing aspects of its operation are key to SKA-low. The first is that it has pioneered methods to adjust for the distorting effects of the ionosphere above Murchison. “It’s like trying to see something at the bottom of a rippling pool,” explains Wayth. “Luckily for us, it’s usually just small ripples.”

    Filtering out the ripples of the ionosphere is just one step in a multipronged data-processing operation whose ultimate aim is to deliver sharp images of the ancient universe.

    Another early step reduces the noise inherent in the system. The heart of every radio telescope is an onsite computer known as a correlator. Developed through a partnership with IBM and Cisco, the MWA’s correlator compares signals from each of the 2,048 antennae. Noise is random; real signals are correlated. By accepting only correlated signals, this step reduces the data to a manageable 1% of the initial deluge.

    The next phase takes place off-site. An 800 km optic fibre ferries the pre-filtered data from the desert to the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth. A mirror link also takes it to collaborators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, to be used by some 35 different science projects.

    Just as a human brain must process vast amounts of data into a meaningful representation of the world, these supercomputers turn the MWA radio wave signals into pictures of the universe. There are data from across different regions of the sky, and across tens of thousands of frequencies. It is sifted by setting windows to extract “cubes” of information. Like pixels on a screen, they provide an image of the universe.

    The MWA’s coarse resolution means its cubes can’t produce a sharp image. SKA, with its 100-fold greater sensitivity and 40-fold increase in resolution, will provide more cubes to show us what is actually there. But in order to do that, it must solve the data deluge problem.

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    The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth, transforms huge amounts of raw data into images of the universe. Pawsey Supercomputing Centre

    Scaling up to SKA

    The antenna design selected for SKA is not the MWA’s squat spider, but one that resembles a pine tree – the so-called log periodic design. Different rung lengths on the tree enable it to resonate in a wide range of frequencies – from 50 to 650 MHz. (MWA typically manages 80 to 300 MHz.) SKA will deploy 130,000 of them.

    But that won’t deliver the eponymous square kilometre of collecting area. The €650 million (about US$690 million) funding for phase 1 will only deliver four-tenths of that. Nevertheless, it should have the sensitivity to detect primordial galaxies across large patches of sky.

    9

    The first phase of SKA-low will churn out raw data at a daily rate greater than the world’s internet traffic; impossible to store, or for human minds to process in real time. Ingenious algorithms will be needed to sift valuable nuggets from the deluge.

    The University of Cambridge leads a consortium of 23 organisations, including Perth’s ICRAR, to develop new hardware and software systems for the task. One of ICRAR’s major software contributions goes by the name DALiuGE – an acronym for “data activated logical graph engine”. It’s also a bilingual play on the word deluge: “liu” is a Chinese character meaning “flow”.

    Last June, an ICRAR team successfully ran the prototype of DALiuGE on the second-most powerful supercomputer in the world, Tianhe-2, in Guangzhou, China. Next, the team hopes to test it on the most powerful, Sunway TaihuLight in Wuxi, eastern China.

    The computing challenges may be huge, but it’s not the first time the global community has taken on something so big. To solve CERN’s problem of distributed processing and information sharing, its researchers ended up developing the World Wide Web. “That changed our world forever,” Quinn says. “I suspect the SKA will do the same.”

    SKA’s rewards are already reaching beyond science into industry. Besides CISCO and IBM, other big-name collaborators on the project include British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, international gas and oil company Chevron, Amazon and Intel. All are highly attuned to new ways of solving their big data problems – whether it is crunching data to make images of oil, gas and mineral deposits below the ground, or finding patterns in vast databases.

    Construction in the middle of nowhere

    The computational challenges of the SKA are formidable; so too are those involved in building and rolling out the infrastructure in the middle of the Australian outback. It’s a perfect job for a former army tank officer.

    Tom Booler has been project manager for the MWA and part of the SKA-low team since 2011. His mission is to plan the construction and deployment of 130,000 antennas in the desert – absent a local workforce, with no construction equipment and no power grid. And that’s only the first phase of SKA-low. The second, slated for the mid-2020s pending funding, will see the number of antennas swell to about a million. The scale, cost and remoteness of the site make it one of the toughest science projects ever undertaken.

    Supplying power is a major hurdle. The MWA is powered by a 1.6 MW hybrid solar-diesel power station, parts of which must be shielded to stop the radio waves it creates from interfering with the telescope. Phase 1 of SKA-low will need 2.25 MW. Phase 2 will need the power supply of a small city.

    Extreme weather also has to be factored in. In 2015, nearby Milly Milly Station bore a year’s worth of rain in five months. While cattle grazers welcomed it, road closures disrupted plans at the observatory. Besides sudden downpours, Booler also has to reckon with temperatures soaring over 40 ºC in the summer months – and then there’s the desert death adder.

    But one thing the shire of Murchison has going for it – and a reason it won the bid for the SKA – is the quiet. Population density is extremely low – just 115 people spread over an area the size of the Netherlands. There are no mobile phone towers or radio and television transmitters. The shire is also hushed by regulations enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

    Within the observatory, every appliance gets stripped of wi-fi hardware before it arrives. The observatory control centre, which houses computers that crunch data from the existing telescopes, is the radio equivalent of an airlock, with radio-wave-proof double doors and no windows.

    Inside a radius of 70km around the observatory authorities can order mobile phones be turned off. Out to 260km emissions are regulated in key radio frequency ranges.

    The entire area is more than six times bigger than the US National Radio Quiet Zone, home to the Green Bank radio telescope and a population running into hundreds of thousands.

    The quiet zones do not extend to high altitudes, so planes communicating with air traffic control could present a problem. To tackle that issue, CSIRO researchers have begun to investigate ways to measure the interference and remove it from the telescope observations.

    Final stretch

    As difficult as building the SKA will be, coming up with the money to bankroll it is trickier. Negotiations with the 10 participating governments for the first phase have been underway since late 2015.

    But there’s a new sense of ease pervading the SKA community as it looks to an April 2017 sign-off on a binding treaty known as an International Government Organisation (IGO).

    Once signed, ministers of each country will have a year to ratify it. Once ratified, researchers are confident things should roll out smoothly. There is a strong precedent: CERN is governed by an IGO, with 22 member states. “It’s a well-tested model,” says Pearce, who previously worked on computing challenges for the LHC as part of a multinational collaboration.

    With SKA-low expected to come online in 2021, and be fully operational in 2024 astronomers are at last allowing themselves to get excited. “Until we can put a radio telescope on the moon, it will be the greatest advance in low-frequency radio astronomy,” says Elisabeth Mills, a radio astronomer at San José State University in California. “With such a great leap in technical capabilities, the most important advances from this telescope may be in areas we cannot even currently predict or imagine.”

    Back to the cosmic dawn

    We know something of the first few moments after the violent birth of our universe. A split second after the Big Bang, it was a tiny mushrooming fireball, 10 billion degrees hot and filled with a plasma of frenetic charged particles.

    Over the next 380,000 years, the expanding universe cooled. Charged particles – electrons and protons – lost enough of their youthful energy to bond with each other and form the first hydrogen atoms. In this more staid universe, light from the Big Bang could at last move in uninterrupted straight lines. As space continued to expand, the light waves stretched to the length of microwaves – which we see today as the cosmic microwave background.

    This much we know. The next episode remains a mystery.

    At 380,000 years old, the universe was a peaceful sea of hydrogen. A billion years later, most of it was gone. We know a small percentage snowballed under the influence of gravity to form stars and galaxies. But the vast intergalactic sea of hydrogen gas disappeared, reionised into a plasma of protons and electrons. The era is known as “the epoch of reionisation”.

    How did this happen? It turns out there are lots of theories, and they are almost completely unconstrained by data.

    Traces of dark matter laid down in the Big Bang, slightly denser than their surrounds, may have triggered the snowballing of hydrogen into stars. But why did the intergalactic hydrogen disappear?

    The leading theory is ultraviolet radiation from the first hot stars stripped the surrounding hydrogen of its electrons. But there is another contender: quasars. Quasars (quasi-stellar radio sources) are among the brightest and oldest objects in the universe. They are powered by black holes; the source of their light is the radiation emitted by accelerating gases as they are sucked towards the accretion disc. Quasars can be surprisingly ancient, appearing just 770 million years after the Big Bang.

    “It’s controversial, but one exciting possibility is that it was quasars that reionised the universe,” says astrophysicist Stuart Wyithe, at the University of Melbourne, who specialises in trying to recreate this unknown period of the history of the universe. The theory also suggests that massive black holes may have played a far greater role in shaping our Universe than previously thought.

    In Wyithe’s computer modelling, the ancient universe resembles Swiss cheese. The cheese is neutral hydrogen and the holes are where it has been eaten away, leaving an ionised plasma. Over a period of about 300 million years, the holes grow larger until, by about a billion years after the Big Bang, there’s almost no cheese left.

    SKA-low is designed to supply theorists like Wyithe with hard data. It will have the resolution and the wide angle to map the distribution of hydrogen in the early universe and trace how it changed over time. He will combine these images with those from the Hubble telescope to try and detect what’s at the centre of those cheesy holes: stars or quasars.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:17 pm on December 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SKA, SKA passes key engineering milestone towards final design   

    From SKA: “SKA passes key engineering milestone towards final design” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    14 December 2016
    No writer credit

    The SKA has passed a key milestone in its engineering process with the positive conclusion of the System Preliminary Design Review (PDR). This review paves the way for the continuation of the engineering design work towards detailed design and Critical Design Review (CDR) before approval of construction.

    Last week at the SKA Headquarters, external experts in the management of large-scale projects from the European Space Agency, The US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the international ALMA Observatory and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics among others gathered to review and assess the maturity of the SKA’s system design. The system design is an engineering process that aims to define the architecture, components and interfaces of the SKA system (the telescope as a whole, from receiver to antenna to data transport, processing, storage and distribution) as per its requirements. The objectives of the system PDR were to ensure that the preliminary design of the SKA was mature enough and that the remaining gaps and risks in the design were identified to enable the project to start detailed design work.

    The reviewers approved the system design, noting the huge amount of work carried out so far by the SKA Office and engineering consortia, as well as the maturity of the architectural design.

    “We’re very pleased. Passing this important engineering milestone concludes what has been a busy year for the SKA on the engineering front, and everyone has worked hard to reach this point. This successful review will give confidence to industry and stakeholders that we are on the right path.” said Luca Stringhetti, the Project Engineer for SKA Organisation.

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    SKA Banner

    SKA CSIRO  Pathfinder Telescope
    SKA ASKAP Pathefinder Telescope

    SKA Meerkat telescope
    SKA Meerkat Telescope

    SKA Murchison Widefield Array
    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:29 pm on October 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SKA   

    From SKA: “Scientific synergies between the Athena observatory and the SKA telescope to be explored” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    ESA Athena spacecraft
    Athena

    Athena X-ray Observatory

    21 October 2016

    1
    The SKA-Athena Synergy Team (SAST) is working to identify and develop potential synergies between the SKA and the Athena X-ray observatory.

    ESA’s Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics (Athena) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be key ingredients of the battery of next generation astronomical observatories in the late 2020s. These facilities will dominate the X-ray and radio windows respectively. Athena is set to study the hot and energetic Universe, specifically the assembly and evolution of hot baryons in large-scale structures and the influence of accretion into supermassive black holes on shaping galaxies. The SKA will also address a broad range of exciting science, from the observation of the very first stars and galaxies to the study of gravitational waves using pulsars and black holes, or the search for signatures of life in the galaxy.

    The Athena Science Study Team (ASST) and the SKA Organisation have agreed to undertake an exercise to identify and develop potential synergies between both large observatories. The Athena and SKA science objectives have areas in common, and combining data from the two facilities will result in a very exciting scientific added value. Themes where strong potential synergies have been preliminarily identified include galaxy clusters, AGN feedback, obscured AGN and transient phenomena.

    A SKA-Athena Synergy Team (SAST) has been appointed to explore and develop all foreseeable scientific synergies and, together with community experts, will produce the SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper. Four international leading figures, covering the relevant scientific areas and both wavelength domains, conform the SAST: Rossella Cassano (INAF/IRA, Chair), Chiara Ferrari (OCA), Rob Fender (Oxford) and Andrea Merloni (MPE). The SAST has kicked-off its activities on 27th September 2016.

    Community input will be invited through a dedicated Workshop organised by the SAST and hosted by the SKA Organisation headquarters in Jodrell Bank, UK during the first half of 2017. A list of specific topics to be covered in that Workshop will be issued by the SAST in the autumn of 2016, together with an open call for scientists willing to come to the Workshop and provide input for the SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper.

    After the Synergy Workshop, the SAST will prepare the SKA-Athena Synergy White Paper, which will be delivered to ESA’s ASST and the SKA Organisation around September 2017 and subsequently made public. “Athena‘s science output will be greatly enhanced when put together with observations from other large facilities in the late 2020s like SKA”, said Xavier Barcons, from ESA’s Athena Science Study Team. “Although it is often said that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, this adage will certainly apply to the collaborative use of the Athena and SKA Observatories”, said Robert Braun, the SKA Science Director, “since the combination of these two extreme ends of the electromagnetic spectrum provides powerful astrophysical constraints.”

    The SKA-Athena Synergy exercise is supported by the Athena Community Office, the SKA Organisation, the Max-Planck Institut für Extraterrestriche Physik and the European Space Agency.

    See the full article 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.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , HERA collaboration, , SKA,   

    From UC Berkeley and SKA: “Funding boost for SKA Precursor HERA telescope – What happened after the lights came on in the universe?” 

    UC Berkeley

    UC Berkeley

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    From SKA:
    Friday 21 September 2016, SKA Global Headquarters, UK – The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionisation Array (HERA) has been awarded international funding with a $9.5 million investment to expand its capabilities, as announced on Wednesday 14th September by the US National Science Foundation.

    1
    Image of the [beginnings of] HERA telescope at the Losberg Site in the Karoo desert. Credit: Danny Jacobs

    HERA, which was recently granted the status of SKA precursor telescope by SKA Organisation, currently has 19, 14-metre radio dishes at the SKA South Africa Losberg site near Carnarvon. With this fresh injection of $9.5 million, this will allow the array to expand to 220 radio dishes by 2018.

    HERA is an experiment focused on one science goal – detecting the Epoch of Reionization signal – and is not a general facility. As part of this effort, HERA is developing techniques, algorithms, calibration and processing pipelines and hardware optimised towards the detection of the power spectrum of the EOR, all of which will benefit SKA in designing and eventually operating the SKA-low telescope to be based in Australia.

    From UC Berkeley:

    September 14, 2016
    Robert Sanders

    An experiment to explore the aftermath of cosmic dawn, when stars and galaxies first lit up the universe, has received nearly $10 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to expand its detector array in South Africa.

    2
    The HERA collaboration expects eventually to expand to 330 radio dishes in the core array, each pointed straight up to measure radiation originally emitted some 13 billion years ago. Twenty outrigger dishes (not shown) are also planned, bringing the array up to 350 dishes total.

    The experiment, an international collaboration called the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array, or HERA, currently has 19 14-meter (42-foot) radio dishes aimed at the southern sky near Carnarvon, South Africa, and will soon up that to 37. The $9.5 million in new funding will allow the array to expand to 240 radio dishes by 2018.

    Led by UC Berkeley, HERA will explore the billion-year period after hydrogen gas collapsed into the first stars, perhaps 100 million years after the Big Bang, through the ignition of stars and galaxies throughout the universe. These first brilliant objects flooded the universe with ultraviolet light that split or ionized all the hydrogen atoms between galaxies into protons and electrons to create the universe we see today.

    “The first galaxies lit up and started ionizing bubbles of gas around them, and soon these bubbles started percolating and intersecting and making bigger and bigger bubbles,“ said Aaron Parsons, a UC Berkeley associate professor of astronomy and principal investigator for HERA. “Eventually, they all intersected and you got this über bubble, leaving the universe as we observe it today: Between galaxies the gas is essentially all ionized.“

    That’s the theory, anyway. HERA hopes for the first time to observe this key cosmic milestone and then map the evolution of reionization to about 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

    “We have leaned a ton about the cosmology of our universe from studies of the cosmic microwave background, but those experiments are observing just the thin shell of light that was emitted from a bunch of protons and electrons that finally combined into neutral hydrogen 380,000 years after the Big Bang,“ he said. “We know from these experiments that the universe started out neutral, and we know that it ended ionized, and we are trying to map out how it transitioned between those two.“

    “Before the cosmic dawn, the universe glowed from the cosmic microwave background radiation, but there weren’t stars lighting up the universe,“ said David DeBoer, a research astronomer in UC Berkeley’s Radio Astronomy Laboratory. “At some point the neutral hydrogen seeded the stars and black holes and galaxies that relit the universe and led to the epoch of reionization.“

    3
    A 13.8-billion-year cosmic timeline indicates the era shortly after the Big Bang observed by the Planck satellite, the era of the first stars and galaxies observed by HERA and the era of galaxy evolution to be observed by NASA’s future James Webb Space Telescope. (HERA image)

    The HERA array, which could eventually expand to 350 telescopes, consists of radio dishes staring fixedly upwards, measuring radiation originally emitted at a wavelength of 21 centimeters – the hyperfine transition in the hydrogen atom – that has been red-shifted by a factor of 10 or more since it was emitted some 13 billion years ago. The researchers hope to detect the boundaries between bubbles of ionized hydrogen – invisible to HERA – and the surrounding neutral or atomic hydrogen.

    By tuning the receiver to different wavelengths, they can map the bubble boundaries at different distances or redshifts to visualize the evolution of the bubbles over time.

    “HERA can also tell us a lot about how galaxies form,“ Parsons said. “Galaxies are very complex organisms that feed back on themselves, regulating their own star formation and the gas that falls into them, and we don’t really understand how they live, especially at this early time when flowing hydrogen gas ends up as complex structures with spiral arms and black holes in the middle. The epoch of reionization is a bridge between the cosmology that we can theoretically calculate from first principles and the astrophysics we observe today and try to understand.“

    UC Berkeley’s partners in HERA are the University of Washington, UCLA, Arizona State University, the National Radio Astronomical Observatory, the University of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University, the University of Cambridge in the UK, the Square Kilometer Array in South Africa and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy.

    Other collaborators are the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the University of KwaZulu Natal, the University of Western Cape and Rhodes University, all in South Africa, and California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.

    “Astronomers want to know what happened to the universe after it emerged from its so-called ‘dark ages’,” said Rich Barvainis, director of the National Science Foundation program that funds HERA. “HERA will help us answer that question, not by studying the primordial stars and galaxies themselves, but rather by studying how these objects changed the nature of intergalactic space.”

    Searching for a firefly on a searchlight

    The key to detecting these percolating bubbles of ionized gas from the epoch of reionization is a receiver that can detect radio signals from neutral hydrogen a million times fainter than nearby radio noise.

    “The foreground noise, mostly synchrotron emission from electrons spiraling in magnetic fields in our own galaxy, is about a million times stronger than the signal,“ DeBoer said. “This is a real problem, because it’s like looking for a firefly in front of an incredibly powerful searchlight. We are trying to see the firefly and filter out the searchlight.“

    Previous experiments, such as the UC Berkeley-led Precision Array Probing the Epoch of Reionization (PAPER) in South Africa and the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia, have not been sensitive enough to detect this signal, but with larger dishes and better signal processing, HERA should do the trick.

    “HERA is a unique, next-generation instrument building on the heritage of PAPER,“ said Parsons, who helped build PAPER a decade ago when he was a graduate student working with the late UC Berkeley astronomer Donald Backer. “It is on the same site as PAPER, we are using a lot of the same equipment, but importantly we have brought together a lot more collaborators, including a lot of the U.S. team that has been working with MWA.“

    The strategy is to build a hexagonal array of radio dishes that minimizes the noise, such as radio reflections in the dishes and wires, that would obscure the signal. A supercomputer’s worth of field programmable gate arrays will cross-correlate the signals from the antennas to finely map a 10-degree swath of southern sky centered at minus-30 degrees latitude. Using a technique adopted from PAPER, they will employ this computer processing power to eliminate the slowly varying noise across the wavelength spectrum – 150-350 centimeters – to reveal the rapidly varying signal from neutral hydrogen as they tune across the radio spectrum.

    Astronomers have already discovered hints of reionization, Parsons said. Measurements of the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation show that some of the photons emitted at that early time in the universe have been scattered by intervening electrons possibly created by the first stars and galaxies. And galaxy surveys have turned up some very distant galaxies that show attenuation by intervening intergalactic neutral hydrogen, perhaps the last bit remaining before reionization was complete.

    “We have an indication that reionization should have happened, and we are getting hints of when it might have ended, but we don’t have anything telling us what is going on during it.,“ Parsons added. “That is what we hope to learn with HERA, the actual step-by-step process of how reionization happened.“

    Once astronomers know the reionization process, they can calculate the scattering of radiation from the era of recombination – the cosmic background radiation, or CMB – and remove some of the error that makes it hard to detect the gravitational waves produced by inflation shortly after the Big Bang.

    “There is a lot of cosmology you can do with HERA,“ Parsons said. “We have learned so much from the thin shell of the CMB, but here we will be looking at a full three-dimensional space. Something like 80 percent of the observable universe can be mapped using the 21-centimeter line, so this opens up the next generation of cosmology.“

    Parsons and DeBoer compare HERA to the first experiment to detect the cosmic microwave background radiation, the Cosmic Background Explorer, which achieved its goal in 1992 and won for its leaders – George Smoot of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and John Mather of NASA – the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.

    “Ultimately, the goal is to get to the point were we are actually making images, just like the CMB images we have seen,“ DeBoer said. “But that is really, really hard, and we need to learn a fair bit about what we are looking for and the instruments we need to get there. We hope that what we develop will allow the Square Kilometre Array or another big project to actually make these images and get much more science from this pivotal epoch in our cosmic history.“

    See the full SKA article here .
    See the UC Berkeley press release here .
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    Founded in the wake of the gold rush by leaders of the newly established 31st state, the University of California’s flagship campus at Berkeley has become one of the preeminent universities in the world. Its early guiding lights, charged with providing education (both “practical” and “classical”) for the state’s people, gradually established a distinguished faculty (with 22 Nobel laureates to date), a stellar research library, and more than 350 academic programs.

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  • richardmitnick 6:39 am on July 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SKA, Statement from the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation on the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum   

    From SKA: “Statement from the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation on the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    The Board of Directors of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation recently met at the SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank near Manchester in the UK for its 21st Board Meeting. This is the first time the Board has met since the result of the UK’s EU referendum held a few weeks ago and the consequent decision to leave the EU.

    Dr Adam Baker from the Science and Research Directorate of the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reaffirmed the strong commitment of the country to the SKA project stating that “with respect to the Square Kilometre Array itself, the UK’s position has not changed. We are still deeply committed to the SKA and its success. The Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson re-iterated the UK’s support for world class research and innovation at a speech to the Wellcome Trust on 30th June. This included specific reference to the SKA.”

    All SKA members’ representatives in the Board took note of the positive statement from the UK, keeping the project on the right track ahead of the construction in 2018 in particular the pursuing of international negotiations to establish the SKA as an Inter-Governmental Organisation or IGO –similar to CERN or ITER.

    All members of the Board, the Director-General of SKA Organisation and the Chair of the Board also took this opportunity to express their pride in the international nature of the SKA project and emphasised the essential contribution of the highly qualified personnel from over 14 different nationalities working at the SKA Headquarters in the UK as well as around the world to deliver the project.

    “The recruitment of talent from around the world is what makes a project such as SKA possible and all members of the Board remain fully committed to ensuring the SKA project can attract and recruit the best and most qualified staff regardless of their origin,” concluded Giovanni Bignami, Chair of the SKA Board.

    See the full article 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.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:35 am on May 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SKA, SKA selects the final design of the SKA dish   

    From SKA: “SKA selects the final design of the SKA dish” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    5.13.16
    No writer credit found

    SKA dishes final design
    SKA dishes final design
    An artist impression of the full SKA at night, with the selected Panel Space-frame supported Metal (PSM) SKA dish design in the foreground.

    [Unless the dish in the foreground of this photo is the final selection, we do not actually find any other image of the final selection.]

    SKA Global Headquarters, UK – The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project has selected the design for its dish, opening up the way for the eventual production of hundreds of dishes that will make up the world’s largest radio telescope.

    “This decision is a major milestone towards delivering the SKA,” said Alistair McPherson, Head of Project at SKA Organisation “Being able to “see” what the SKA dishes will look like for the first time is a big satisfaction for all involved.”

    Three antenna concepts were built to be considered for the design of the SKA dish: DVA-1 in Canada, DVA-C in China, and MeerKAT-1 in South Africa. All three were constructed using different technology from the different partners, representing the very best in radio telescope dish technology currently available.

    1
    DVA-1 in Canada

    3
    DVA-C in China

    SKA Meerkat telescope, South African design
    MeerKAT-1 in South Africa

    A five-strong selection panel of engineering experts in the fields of composites, radio telescope antennas and systems engineering assessed both designs on a series of indicators including surface accuracy, feasibility of on-site manufacturing and ability to maintain structural integrity over long time-frames and made a unanimous recommendation that the Chinese PSM concept should be selected for the SKA dishes, a recommendation that was then approved by the SKA Dish Consortium Board.

    The SKA Dish Consortium, made up of institutes from Australia (who leads the consortium), Canada, China, Germany, Italy and South Africa is responsible for the design and verification of the dish that will make up SKA-mid, one of two SKA instruments. In its first phase of deployment (SKA1), SKA-mid will be initially composed of 133 15-metre diameter dishes providing a continuous coverage from 350 MHz to 14 GHz.

    One of the greatest challenges faced by the consortium is the mass production of hundreds of these dishes, all with identical performance characteristics, and built to last and tolerate the harsh conditions of the remote arid areas in which they will operate for 50 years. Combined with achieving a large high precision collecting area at a competitive price, it’s a formidable technical and engineering challenge.

    “We’re confident the selected design will perform well in the harsh conditions of the Karoo in South Africa and will deliver the precision that the scientific community needs to answer the questions they’re trying to solve” said Roger Franzen, SKA Dish Consortium Lead.

    “The next step for us is to build and test a prototype at the South African site” he continued.

    The detailed design and manufacturing of such prototype, called SKA-P, is led by JLRAT/CETC54 in collaboration with the European companies MTM and Società Aerospaziale Mediterranea (SAM), and the Assembly, Integration and Verification of SKA-P will be done on site together with SKA SA team.

    “We expect the installation of SKA-P on the ground to happen by spring 2017”, said Roger Franzen. “Once satisfied with its performance, the project will be in a good position to go to tender and issue the contract for the mass production of 133 dishes to make up SKA1-mid.”

    Beyond the design of the dish structure, the consortium is also tasked with designing and testing optics, receivers and other elements of the dish. As part of that process, NRC continues its valuable contributions to single pixel feed (SPF) receivers/digitizers and cryogenic low noise amplifiers (LNAs).

    About the Design process

    In 2013, the SKA Organisation sent out requests to research organisations and commercial partners around the world to help design the SKA. Eleven international teams – called consortia – were established and each tasked with designing a critical element of the project, with each consortium composed of partners who are leaders in their fields.

    The consortium then presented the following designs for study:

    An innovative Single Skin, Rim supported Composite (SRC) concept led by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), along with SED Systems of Canada and RPC Composites of Australia.
    An optimised Panel, Space-frame supported Metal (PSM) concept, led by a Shijiazhuang, China based team composed of JLRAT/CETC-54 along with their European partner, MT Mechatronics (MTM) of Mainz, Germany

    See the full article here .

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    SKA ASKAP Pathefinder Telescope

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    SKA Murchison Widefield Array
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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.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:19 pm on April 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , SKA   

    From SKA: “Parkes telescope granted SKA Pathfinder status” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory
    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory

    The iconic Parkes telescope in Australia, run by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has been granted pathfinder status by SKA Organisation.

    This announcement welcomes Parkes into the group of other world-leading instruments and systems engaged in SKA-related technology development and science studies, such as the Arecibo Observatory, LOFAR and the EVLA.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory

    ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank
    ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank

    ASTRON LOFAR Map
    ASTRON LOFAR Map

    Parkes Observatory in New South Wales hosts the 64-metre Parkes radio telescope, affectionately known by many as ‘The Dish’.

    Parkes has been in operation since 1961 and continues to be at the forefront of astronomical discovery thanks to regular upgrades. Its many contributions include playing an instrumental role in the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, the detection of the majority of currently-known Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), and significant discoveries in the study of pulsars – a field in which the SKA will play a fundamental role.

    Parkes’ newly-granted pathfinder status is based on its role in testing innovative new receivers. This includes deploying, commissioning and developing phased array feed (PAF) receivers for radio astronomy, based on the receivers designed and commissioned on CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope – itself one of three SKA precursor telescopes.

    Parkes Phased Array Feed
    Parkes Phased Array Feed

    SKA ASKAP telescope
    SKA ASKAP telescope

    The PAF work at Parkes will play a key role in the technological development of these receivers, which are under consideration for the SKA.

    The Dish recently welcomed the arrival of a PAF receiver, designed and built as part of an agreement with the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy (MPIfR). Once characterisation testing is complete on the Parkes telescope, this PAF will be deployed on the Effelsberg telescope in Germany.

    MPIFR/Effelsberg Radio Telescope
    MPIFR/Effelsberg Radio Telescope

    Into the future Parkes will also develop ultra-wideband single pixel feed receivers, similar to those currently being developed by Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden as part of the development of SKA technologies.

    Onsala 20 meter telescope exterior Sweden
    Onsala Twenty meter telescope interior  Sweden
    Onsala 20 meter telescope Sweden

    A full list of SKA precursors and pathfinders is available on the SKA website.

    See the full article 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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:21 pm on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , SKA   

    From CSIRO: “2015: An ASKAP year to remember” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    21 December 2015
    No writer credit

    As the end of the year approaches, now is a time to reflect on the major achievements of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) project in 2015, thanks to the team staff based in CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science offices across Australia (Sydney, Perth, and Geraldton), those on the ground at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO), and also international collaborators.

    CSIRO Australian ASKAP Telescope
    ASKAP

    The year started with an impressive 150 square degree image of the Tucana constellation produced by the commissioning team. Using six Mk I phased array feed (PAF) receivers installed at the MRO – the Boolardy Engineering Test Array, or BETA – to demonstrate the rapid, wide-area survey capability of the ASKAP telescope, this image was over three times the size of previous efforts.

    Regular ‘Busy Weeks’ for the ASKAP Early Science and Commissioning (ACES) team resulted in significant progress and a number of technical memoranda focused on understanding the intricate workings of BETA, including beamforming, polarimetry, PAF performance, antenna pointing, using ASKAPsoft, RFI mitigation and preparation for data processing with the next generation (Mk II) PAFs on the telescope. Over the course of the year, the team collected approximately 192 TB of commissioning data across 2000 scheduling blocks.

    The first initial science papers based on BETA commissioning data were published this year, capitalising on the unique capabilities of the telescope and radio quiet environment of the MRO. From mapping a galaxy group to reveal three previously unknown neutral hydrogen (HI) clouds, to the discovery of HI absorption in a galaxy 5 billion light years away, to confirming theoretical predictions about an ‘exotic’ intermittent pulsar, the results provided a teaser of what the full ASKAP may be capable of in the future.

    Making significant headway towards ASKAP Early Science in 2016 is also the team behind the ASKAP Computing systems, working closely with ACES and the ASKAP Survey Science Teams to deliver the bespoke software, ASKAPsoft. The recent initial release of 3TB of demonstration data will provide valuable insight for the team developing the CSIRO ASKAP Science Data Archive (CASDA) and reinforces the importance of open access to data.

    2015 may have been the year of BETA, but in the coming year the ASKAP Early Science program will take advantage of the significant improvement in performance offered by CSIRO’s next generation of ASKAP receivers – the Mk II PAF.

    Six Mk II PAFs have now been successfully installed on antennas at the MRO, with commissioning activities already bearing impressive results, including the first ever 16 beam image to be produced with the PAF receivers – a record that was quickly broken as the latest number coming from the site is now a 25 beam image with five Mk II systems.

    Back in Marsfield, Sydney, there are around 20 more Mk II PAFs on the production line in the workshop, and a number of completed systems undergoing final system tests or already crated and ready for deployment to site.

    A number of key milestones were also reached this year for the team working on power supply to the MRO, with the appointment of Perth-based EMC for some 6000 solar panels and Australia’s largest battery storage system to help power the MRO, as well as an announcement from the WA State Government approving a funding agreement between Horizon Power and CSIRO. These steps will lead toward the construction of a permanent hybrid power station for the site.

    The international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project experienced a number of key events through the year that has carried the telescope a step closer to the construction phase, including the release of the SKA Science Book, the SKA Science and SKA Engineering Meetings that brought together international scientists and engineers involved in planning and design of the mega-science project, as well the announcement of a permanent headquarters in the UK.

    CSIRO continued its involvement in the SKA project through seven of the 11 SKA R&D consortia (and leading two of these: Dish and Infrastructure-Australia), as well planning with Australian astronomers on the Key Science Projects and working together with Australian industry together towards SKA1.

    Valuable progress in SKA planning was also made from a national perspective as well, as treaty negotiations with SKA member governments – including Australia – began, and a recent announcement from the Prime Minister included provisional funding allocation for the SKA as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

    ASKAP’s achievements of 2015 cannot be denied, but recognition in the award of CSIRO’s highest honour – the Chairman’s Medal – certainly validated the hard work of the whole team that has brought the project to where it is today.

    Heading into 2016, the team looks forward to the start of ASKAP Early Science, the installation and commissioning of Mk II PAFs at the MRO, and the further expansion of the Perth office – especially with an increased expertise in low frequency radio astronomy.

    See the full article here .

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    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:11 am on October 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , RenewEconomy Australia, SKA   

    From RenewEcomomy via SKA: “Australia’s ‘largest battery’ to be added to solar powered astronomy hub” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    Temp 1
    REneweconomy

    5 October 2015
    Sophie Vorrath

    1
    Among telescopes the solar and storage system will be powering is CSIRO’s newest edition, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) – which stands to be one of the most powerful survey radio astronomy instruments on the planet.

    The solar system being built to power one of Australia’s leading star-gazing facilities – the CSIRO’s Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Western Australia – could soon be combined with the nation’s biggest battery, after EMC (Energy Made Clean) was appointed to engineer, procure and construct a 2.5MWh energy storage system at the site.

    The lithium-ion battery system will be 100% designed, engineered and constructed by EMC – who are already in the process of building the Observatory’s 1.6MW solar power station – at its Perth facility.

    Currently in commissioning phase, ASKAP will allow astronomers to answer some fundamental questions about the creation and early evolution of our Universe, and to test theories of cosmic magnetism and predictions from [Albert] Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    There is a slightly smaller 2MWh battery destined to be installed on the regional Victorian grid by network operator Powercor in early 2016. But as the Powercor battery is being built in South Korea, EMC says the CSIRO battery system will have the advantage of creating extensive Australian-owned IP that can be deployed into many other applications throughout the region.

    Construction is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2016 and the containerized, rapidly deployable energy storage solution will be fully tested and commissioned in Perth before being transported to site for connection to the 1.6MW solar generator.

    The lithium-ion batteries and control systems to be deployed are similar to those being used by EMC for the Alkimos 1.2MWh battery project for Synergy that is on schedule for completion in December.

    See the full article here .

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    SKA ASKAP Pathefinder Telescope

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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.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:09 pm on October 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , India joins SKA, , SKA   

    From SKA: “Indian Government joins SKA Organisation” 

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    SKA

    5 October 2015
    Press Release

    The Indian Government has now signed the membership of SKA Organisation, bringing India formally into the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project after years of involvement in its design, and ahead of negotiations to create the inter-governmental organisation that will construct and run the telescope.

    1
    Prof Phillip Diamond (Director General, SKA) and Dr R.K.Sinha (Secretary, DAE, Govt. of India) at the signature of the membership of SKA Organisation.

    The secretary of the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Dr. R.K.Sinha signed the documents on behalf of the Government of India in a ceremony in Mumbai on Monday, 5th October 2015, in the presence of Professor Philip Diamond, Director General of the SKA Project.

    The event was attended by dignitaries from SKA Organisation in the UK, scientists and officials from the DAE (and DST) and scientists from various research organisations in India, who are contributing to the project. The National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA-TIFR) in Pune is identified to be the nodal institute for overseeing SKA related activities within India. NCRA first joined SKA Organisation in April 2012 as an Associate Member and became a Full Member in August 2014. It has been involved in the SKA project since the project’s earliest days and was one of the institutions that signed an agreement in 1997 to develop technologies for a large-scale radio telescope.

    On this occasion, Professor Philip Diamond said “We welcome India as part of the ongoing SKA project. India, via NCRA, has already been playing a significant role in the design phase of the telescope which will continue till 2017, and I look forward to continued involvement of India during the construction of the telescope, starting 2018. India has several decades of expertise in low frequency radio astronomy which is an added advantage.”

    “Several Indian scientists are working on research areas relevant to the SKA, and are gearing up for doing cutting edge science with the instrument when it is ready”, said Professor Swarna Kanti Ghosh, Centre Director of the NCRA.
    Prof. Yashwant Gupta of NCRA, Principal Investigator for the SKA related effort in India, added “At present, Indian scientists are leading one of the ten design work packages for the SKA, the Telescope Manager, which will be the brain and nervous system controlling the entire SKA observatory.”

    See the full article here .

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