SKA Architect Prof. Peter Dewdney Updates Progress on Design

On March 18, 2015, Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Architect Prof. Peter Dewdney gave a lecture at NAOC highlighting recent progress related to the design and layout of the SKA. Dewdney, who was previously based at Canada's Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, said that two weeks ago, the SKA Board of Directors approved the updated design so placement of radio receivers that are part of the SKA can commence. Dewdney stated that SKA will be one of the great research facilities in the 21st Century and it is being constructed in two phases. SKA1 is now being designed and constructed and SKA2 is planned for the next decade. Dewdney continued by giving an overview of the research topics SKA will be used to investigate, which include origins of the Universe, dark matter and dark energy, protoplanetary disks, biomolecules, astrobiology, SETI, pulsars and gravitational waves. He also showed maps of the geographic locations where dishes will be places in Australia and South Africa. The locations where receivers that are part of SKA will be positioned will enhance the already existing radio facilities of ASKAP in Australia and MeerKAT in South Africa. As one of the directors of the SKA project, Dewdney showed how the SKA organization is administered. It currently has 11 member countries, including China, with several more expected to join in the near future. The main office for SKA, at Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester, England, has approximately 50 staff and there are 11 additional design consortia around the world that have a combined total of about 500 scientists and engineers supporting the project.

At the end of his talk, Dewdney explained how the SKA will complement the FAST radio telescope currently being constructed in China. He said that FAST will have high-sensitivity but a small field of view. SKA will have a large field of view with high resolution. In addition, although FAST is located in the northern hemisphere and SKA is in the southern hemisphere, there is some overlap in the available ranges of their observations. Radio astronomers around the world are anticipating exciting results from these two pioneering facilities.

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