The last few months have seen several major SKA events. The first was the 4th all-hands SKA Engineering Meeting in the first week of October, hosted by our South African partners in a lovely venue in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town. The meeting was attended by about 270 of the global design team from all corners of the Earth. The meeting demonstrated, once again, the need for team work and the immense value of such face-to-face discussions. Following feedback from the previous meeting in Canada, there was less time spent on plenary sessions and more of a focus on Consortia and inter-Consortia meetings along with specific workshops. This was well-received and good progress was made on all fronts. The 5th meeting will take place in Rotterdam between 12-16 June, 2017; organisation is already underway.
The second major event was the biennial SKA Science meeting, entitled ‘Science for the SKA generation’. This was very kindly hosted by our Indian colleagues in another very pleasant venue in Goa, India, in early November. Approximately 200 astronomers attended, many of them, by design, early-career researchers – the people for whom SKA will loom prominently in their research lives. There was a whole range of presentations from across the spectrum of SKA science; I particularly enjoyed the energy of the so-called “poster marathons’: 25 posters in 25 minutes, with each presenter having one slide and one minute to preview their poster. The meeting ended with a two-day series of workshops on continuing preparations for SKA Key Science Projects. The plan in 2017 is to organise a number of topic-oriented workshops jointly with some of the design consortia in order to explore and cement the science-engineering interface.
The SKA Board met at SKA HQ on 24-25 November 2016. The ‘Notes from the Chair’, which provide an overall summary of the meeting, can be found here. As you will see, a key outcome from the Board is a requirement to undertake a serious review of cost reduction options. This will look at a wide-range of options, including possible use of pre-cursor technology where warranted. A preliminary report on the review will be presented to the Board at its next meeting in March, 2017.
In the last eNews I reported that planning permission for the extension of the SKA HQ had been granted. I’m pleased to report that the design is now well-advanced and we should see construction work beginning early in 2017, with completion scheduled for the northern spring of 2018.
I hope you enjoy this edition of the SKA eNews.
Professor Philip Diamond, SKA Organisation Director-General.