Editorial from the Director-General

Phil-Diamond_k3

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the August edition of SKA eNews, a publication aimed to informing the broad community and the public about progress towards the construction of the SKA.

Since the previous edition, published in May, there has been so much happening that it is hard to know where to start. Some of the items I mention below are covered in more detail within eNews, or can be found on our website.

It was a great pleasure to welcome both Spain and France to the SKA Organisation. Spain joined in June and France in July of this year. Scientists and engineers in both countries had been involved in many aspects of the definition for and design of SKA for many years and I was extremely pleased that after a long period of discussions and negotiation, we were able to bring both in as members of SKAO. I hope we can look forward to both countries joining the SKA Observatory, the inter-governmental organisation, once it is established in 2019.

On that front, it was very pleasing to see significant momentum injected when the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened the text of the Convention and the key protocols for initialling by senior officials of member countries. 7 member countries initialled the text (in order; IT, AU, ZA, SE, UK, CN and NL) which acknowledges that it is complete and fixed and paves the way for a Ministerial signing ceremony later in the year.

In another notable event, I and the Board were privileged to be invited to attend the inauguration of MeerKAT by the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr David Mabuza, on July 13th. The event took place at the telescope in the Karoo. A particular highlight was the unveiling of a beautiful image of the Galactic Centre made by the full 64-antenna MeerKAT at 1.4 GHz.

While at the site, the Board was also pleased to see construction underway on the SKA prototype dish on the SKA site. This, the second prototype (the first being in China – see previous eNews), is funded by the German Max-Planck Gesellschaft. A recent photo showing the pedestal and the dish structure on the ground next to it is shown here.

The Board was able to participate since it held its 27thmeeting just outside Cape Town on 11-12thJuly. The outcomes of the Board meeting can be found on the SKA website. The next meeting of the Board is scheduled for 12-13thNovember at the new SKA HQ at Jodrell Bank in the UK. The new building, a €20M contribution to the SKA project by the UK, was completed in mid-July; it is now being furnished and the IT/AV equipment procured and installed. Staff will begin to occupy the new building in October.

On the technical side, it is a pleasure to record that the Telescope Manager (TM) consortium passed its Critical Design Review (CDR) with flying colours and the CDR certificate was awarded to Prof Yashwant Gupta of NCRA-TIFR, India, the consortium leader on 6thAugust. This is the first in a planned series of CDRs, which are now well underway.

In early July the SKA’s Science and Engineering Advisory Committee, ably chaired by Prof Andrea Ferrara of SNS Pisa, met in Pingtang County adjacent to the 500-m FAST telescope in south-west China. A highlight of the meeting was a visit to FAST, which is now well advanced in its commissioning phase.

As I write, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), is holding its 30thGeneral Assembly in Vienna, Austria. I attended the first week of the meeting giving two of the more than 30 SKA-related talks spread through the 2-week meeting. The SKA Comms team were present with a booth, which won an award, the Austrian Ecolabel, for contributing to a green conference.

I hope you enjoy reading SKA eNews.

Professor Philip Diamond, SKA Organisation Director-General.

30th August 2018