18-02-201418/02/2014 Symposium: Transformational Science with the SKA

Synergies with ALMA and other contemporary instruments

Brussels, 16 February 2014 – The Transformational Science with the SKA Symposium, which will take place on 17-21 February 2014 in Stellenbosch, South Africa; will mark the occasion of twenty years since the first discussions on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the aspiring call for a radio telescope with a significant increase in sensitivity over existing instruments.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope with a square kilometre of collecting area, which attempts to resolve the Big Data puzzle, as part of its mission to study the formation of the early Universe. 

By using more than 500,000 antennas scattered across southern Africa and Australia, the SKA will produce a torrent of data, which is equivalent to 10 times the daily global Internet traffic. By the time the SKA is fully operational, questions regarding the management, integration, analysis, transport, and archiving of large-scale datasets need to be answered.

Much progress in radio astronomy has been achieved in the past two decades, particularly in the development of instruments covering the full radio wavelength range from millimetres to metres, such as ALMA or LOFAR. In 2012, the sites for the putative SKA were determined, with the main part of the collecting area to be built in Africa.

The Transformational Science with the SKA Symposium will discuss progress in SKA science, as well as its relationship to scientific results from other contemporary instruments. Meeting sessions will encompass all aspects of contemporary radio astronomy, including the early Universe, HI in galaxies, star formation, galaxy evolution, pulsars and transients.

Advances in science and technology are key drivers of socio-economic development, which increase competitiveness and stimulate human capital development and therefore may also positively affect countries’ economic growth.

South Africa provides a good example of this phenomenon. While speaking to the press in Brussels last year Derek Hanekom, South African Minister of Science and Technology, noted, “In South Africa, one of the challenges is on the human capital side and insufficient numbers of technicians and scientists, etc., so we treated SKA as one of the projects which should stimulate or be accompanied by human capital development programs; which include students at a graduate and post graduate level from South Africa and other African countries.”

Enabling major research and technological advances, which will be essential for the future of radio astronomy and related topics such as Big Data or renewable energy, is one of the main objectives of the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP). 

AERAP is a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe. The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. 

AERAP will be one of the key contributors at the Transformational Science with the SKA Symposium. 

Mr Declan Kirrane, co-initiator of AERAP, will introduce the platform and its activities, but will primarily focus on the role of AERAP as a coordinator of African-European calls for proposals under Horizon 2020, the EU’s new programme for financing research and innovation. 

On this Kirrane said, “AERAP is the ideal vehicle for coordinating African-European calls for proposals under Horizon 2020. It will assist individuals interested in participating in project proposals focused on African-European radio astronomy cooperation by finding the right consortium partners and consequently assisting with the proposal preparation. To date, more than 40 researchers from both Africa and Europe have expressed interest in participating in calls for proposals by using AERAP as a coordinator”.  

On the occasion of the Mid-frequency aperture array workshop taking place on 22 February 2014 at the same venue as the Symposium, Mr Takalani Nemaungani, Director of Global Projects at the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa will deliver a presentation on AERAP, as well as sensitize the workshop participants to the new funding opportunities, which have recently became available under Horizon 2020. 

The purpose of this workshop is to assess the scientific and engineering interest in South Africa and SKA partner countries for mid-frequency aperture arrays. Specific focus will be placed on building a strong support network in Africa amongst scientists and engineers for aperture array technology. Speakers will include several high profile scientists, as well as leading engineers in their respective field.

For further information and to register, please visit www.astron.nl/mfaa2014


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Editor’s Note

The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)

AERAP  is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation. AERAP is a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe.

The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform will also enable effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.

Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org 


The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

SKA is a global science and engineering project led by the SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.

Thousands of linked radio wave receptors will be located in Australia and in Southern Africa. Combining the signals from the antennas in each region will create a telescope with a collecting area equivalent to a dish with an area of about one square kilometre.

Members of the SKA Organisation are Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Sweden and United Kingdom. India is an associate member.

For further information: please contact William Garnier, Chief Communications Officer of the SKA Organisation (w.garnier@skatelescope.org) or visit the website of the SKA Organisation: www.skatelescope.org  



Running from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €79 billion, Horizon 2020 is the EU’s new programme for financing research and innovation. It is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe and it also serves as the financial instrument for implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. International cooperation in research and innovation is a crucial part of Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 provides major simplification through a single set of rules. It will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

Further information on Horizon 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/index_en.cfm?pg=home


Mid-frequency aperture array technology 

The “Mid-Frequency Aperture Array” (MFAA) element of the SKA, part of the SKA Advanced Instrumentation Programme, includes the activities necessary for the development of a set of antennas, on board amplifiers and local processing required for the Aperture Array telescope of the SKA. MFAA includes the development of local station signal processing and hardware required to combine the antennas and the transport of antenna data to the station processing.

This technology allows for a wide range of science cases to be explored. Within the AERAP and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions from the European Union there is an opportunity to invest in preparations for the mid-frequency aperture array radio telescope in South Africa.



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