UK Report

The UK initials the SKA Treaty

On 28th June, Dr Adam Baker from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, initialled the SKA treaty on behalf of the UK, marking further progress in establishing the SKA Observatory.

UK SKA Science Community meeting

More than 55 scientists from across the UK attended a community meeting to update them on the progress of the SKA project and discuss the challenges arising from the big data sets produced by astronomy facilities. Organised by the UK SKA Science Committee, the meeting included an update from SKA Project Scientist Dr Anna Bonaldi, on the recent Critical Design Reviews, the timeline towards science commissioning and information on the upcoming SKA Data Challenges. These challenges will use both real data from current radio telescope facilities as well as simulated SKA data, to enable astronomers to familiarise themselves with the standard products the SKA will produce, whilst providing input to the development of data reduction pipelines for the Science Data Processor and SKA Regional Centres.

Reviews on the current status of current radio astronomy facilities the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) and MeerKAT, were followed by updates on two of the e-MERLIN legacy projects eMerge (the e-MERLIN Galaxy Evolution Survey) and PEBBLES (Planet Earth Building-Blocks – a Legacy e-MERLIN Survey). The meeting ended with a discussion on the future priorities for the UK in dealing with future big data sets.

The meeting also heard an update on the Aeneas project to establish a European Science Data Centre for the SKA

Science X at Manchester’s Trafford Centre

Manchester’s Trafford Centre hosted its annual Science X event on 14/15 April. Scientists from the University of Manchester held stalls throughout the iconic shopping centre showcasing everything from astronomy to a soil safari. Staff and students from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre joined shoppers throughout the weekend to explain how astronomers study the invisible Universe using infrared, radio and sub-millimetre telescopes. The SKA was featured as part of the stand, with staff on-hand to engage with the public, some of whom had made the trip solely to take part in the science activities.

Bluedot festival at Jodrell Bank 2018

The award-winning bluedot festival returned to Jodrell Bank in July 2018 bringing an even more inspiring mix of music, science, arts and culture. Over the festival weekend festival goers were treated to music from the Chemical Brothers, the Flaming Lips and even a special performance of Blue Planet in concert with the Hallé. Positioned beside the Contact Stage in the Star Field science garden, the SKA stand offered visitors the chance to take part in some hands-on activities whilst learning about the SKA.

Festival Goers young and old tried their hand at engineering a radio telescope out of marshmallows and spaghetti while others took a tour around the SKA sites and some of the world’s radio telescopes with the help of a Bee-Bot programmable robot.

Scientists and engineers from the University of Manchester and the SKA Organisation were on hand to explain about the SKA project and engage with the public.

More than 16,000 people attended the festival over the course of the weekend, providing a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the UK’s role in the SKA project and to engage with members of the public who would not normally attend a science centre.

2nd URSI Atlantic Radio Science Meeting (AT-RASC 2018)

A number of staff and students from the UK Universities involved in designing the SKA have attended the 2nd URSI AT-RASC meeting in Gran Canaria. Scientists and engineers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester presented talks on a range of topics including aperture arrays for SKA and the SKA pathfinder HERA, and particle detector systems. Further details of the scientific programme can be found on the conference website

Report provided by Hilary Kay, UK SKA Outreach Officer