UK Report

Science on display at Manchester’s Trafford Centre

Manchester’s Trafford Centre hosted its annual Science Xtravaganza event on 22/23 April, with scientists from the University of Manchester running pop-up stands featuring everything from astronomy to the chemistry of nail varnish. Staff from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and the SKA Organisation joined shoppers on the second day of the event to show them how scientists study the invisible Universe using different types of telescopes. The SKA was featured on the stand, with staff from both the University and also the SKAO explaining to visitors the vast scale of the project with the help of SKAO’s interactive display table and pop-up banners.

SKA volunteers at the Science Xtravaganza

The Science X event provided an opportunity to engage with a diverse range of people in an unusual environment, including visitors who would not normally visit science centres.

SKA at the International Centre for Life

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) roadshow ‘Seeing the Universe in All its Light’ was on display from 11 January to 30 March 2017 in the Life Science Centre, part of the International Centre for Life, in Newcastle. The roadshow is a touring exhibition showcasing UK expertise involved in international telescopes like the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It also includes our interactive SKA exhibit containing information on both the engineering and science of the SKA project and models of the SKA-low antennas and the SKA-mid dishes.

The roadshow attracted a high number of visitors with more than 55,000 members of the public visiting the roadshow during its stay.

Public Talks

UK scientists and engineers have been showcasing their work on the SKA project in a number of public talks.

Dr Amin Aminaei, from the University of Oxford, gave a talk on the SKA to around 50 members of the British Computer Society (BCS), the Gloucester Branch of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Cotswold Astronomy Society (CAS) in May 2017. Dr Aminaei is a Digital System Commissioning Engineer, working on data acquisition and digital signal processing for SKA-low.

Dr Hayden Rampadarath, from the University of Manchester, visited the Chesterfield Astronomical Society in July 2017 to tell them about the SKA. Dr Rampadarath is working on the development of the SKA imaging pipeline as part of the Science Data Processor consortium.

The Bluedot festival at Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank, part of The University of Manchester and the location of the SKA headquarters, hosted the second Bluedot festival from 7th-9th July. Appealing to both young people and families alike, the festival included not only music from artists such as the Pixies, Orbital and Alt-J but also incorporated a science garden, art installations in the arboretum and a range of science shows and film screenings.

The combined UK-SKA and SKAO stand was located within the Star Field and featured the STFC interactive exhibit and the SKAO interactive table-top display, with the SKA inflatable dish once again proving popular with visitors.

This year we ran a hands-on construction activity using spaghetti and marshmallows, which entertained festival goers both young and old, and gave us an opportunity to spend time talking to visitors about the SKA project.

In addition, there were several public talks from UK scientists and engineers working on the SKA, including Professor Keith Grainge who leads the SKA Signal and Data Transport (SaDT) consortium.

Total visitor numbers are not yet available but feedback from last year’s bluedot suggested that many of the visitors had not visited a science centre before, so the festival provides an opportunity to engage with a new, harder to reach audience.

Report provided by Hilary Kay, UK SKA Outreach Officer