Editorial from the Director-General


Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the new edition of the SKA eNews, through which we try to bring you news from across the international SKA project demonstrating the excellent progress both in the design and science activities, as well as relevant developments in SKA Observer countries.

I start by welcoming Dr Catherine Cesarsky as the new independent Chair of the SKA Board. Catherine was elected following the untimely passing of Nanni Bignami, the previous Chair, as reported in our previous edition of eNews. Catherine has had a wide-ranging career, including the following senior positions: Head of Astrophysics at the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, CEA (1985-93); Director of CEA basic research in physics and chemistry (1994-97); Director General of the European Southern Observatory, ESO (1999-2007) and then High Commissioner for Atomic Energy in France (2009-12). She is also a high-level advisor to many bodies, including CEA, CERN, ESA and the Académie des Sciences in France.

Catherine has already chaired her first SKA Board meeting, which was held in Bologna, Italy from 8-9 November; she has also spent three days at SKA HQ meeting the staff and attending a face-to-face meeting of the SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC). I look forward to working closely with such a distinguished person as the new Chair of the Board, especially as we move into a very complex period for the SKA. I would like to express my strongest thanks and appreciation to Prof Lars Börjesson, who stepped in as interim Board Chair at a difficult time following Nanni’s untimely passing. It was a pleasure working with Lars.

On another personnel matter, following a global search, I have appointed Dr Joe McMullin as SKA Programme Director; Joe will start in his new post on 8th January 2018. His role will be to take over from Alistair McPherson (who will be remaining as Deputy D-G through 2018) and lead the engineering team into SKA1 construction. Joe is a radio astronomer by training and has worked at NRAO for several years on aips++, CASA, ALMA and the EVLA; for the past 6 years, he has been the project manager for the construction of DKIST, the US$344M optical solar telescope nearing completion on Haleakala, Hawaii.

A few weeks ago, Rosie Bolton (SKA Regional Centre Project Scientist) and I had the privilege of giving the keynote presentation at SuperComputing17 (SC17), which this year was held in Denver, Colorado. SC17 was a huge meeting, with about 13,000 attendees and exhibitors. Our keynote talk was entitled ‘Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope’. The SKA Comms team did a fantastic job in generating all of the material for the massive screen (47m wide!!), which dwarfed Rosie and me, and in producing the script for the talk itself. An LA-based production company turned the material we had provided into something which looked great on the huge screen. If you have a chance, it is worth watching the video, which lasts just over 45 minutes.

I hope you enjoy eNews and don’t forget that you can find a summary of the recent SKA Board meeting, and the most recent project bulletin.

Professor Philip Diamond, SKA Organisation Director-General.

7th December 2017