UK Report

UK SKA Science Community Workshop
Royal Observatory Edinburgh, 7 Sept 2017

More than 50 astronomers from almost 20 institutions around the UK attended a 1-day science community workshop at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh on 7 September 2017. The meeting, organised by the UK SKA Science Committee, provided an opportunity to update the UK astronomy community on the recent developments affecting the SKA. These included the SKA cost control programme, the planning and development of Regional Processing Centres and the UK Radio Astronomy Review, which has been instigated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Science Board.

The meeting included an update on the status and capability of the SKA, from the SKA Science Director Robert Braun, as well as presentations on some of the science being done by the SKA precursors and pathfinder facilities such as ASKAP, MeerKAT, LOFAR and e-MERLIN, in preparation for the SKA.

The meeting concluded with discussion on the strategic priorities for radio astronomy within the UK.

Dark Matter, Bright Stars at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

September 2017 saw the historic Royal Observatory Edinburgh welcome the public to its yearly open weekend, part of the Edinburgh ‘Doors Open Day’. More than 3,300 members of the public visited the Observatory on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th September and enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the scientists and engineers who are designing and building some of the world’s greatest telescopes, such as the SKA and the James Webb Space Telescope.

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

SKA Outreach at the University of Cambridge

SKA staff and students at the University of Cambridge have been promoting the SKA at a series of events aimed at giving the public an opportunity to engage with the University’s scientists and engineers.

Physics at Work

The Physics at Work programme is a 3-day event, showcasing the wide variety of ways that physics can be used in everyday life. This free event is open to all school pupils aged 14-16 and aims to inspire the physicists of the future and encourage wider participation in physics.

Nicolas Fagnoni and Dr Hardie Pienaar, of the University’s Cavendish Laboratory, took part in the event, engaging with around 270 students. They gave presentations on radio astronomy, their research and their involvement with the SKA project. They also took time to answer questions from the students.

Alumni weekend

Both Nicolas and Hardie also took part in the University of Cambridge Alumni Festival on 22nd-24th September. Whilst engaging with alumni they were able to show some prototype antennas for both the SKA Low Frequency and Mid Frequency Aperture Arrays (LFAA and MFAA) and the prototype for a new Vivaldi feed for the SKA precursor the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA).

The SKA and HERA stand at the University of Cambridge Alumni Festival

Cambridge Science Centre

Dr Eloy de Lera Acedo, a Senior Research Associate at the Cavendish Laboratory, also took part in a family astronomy event at the Cambridge Science Centre. As well as showing some of the hardware he is designing for the SKA he also gave a talk to around 30 members of the public.

Ogden Trust Interns working with the University of Manchester

Staff at the University of Manchester are developing particle detectors to be deployed alongside the SKA-low antennas. This SKA Custom Experiment will study radio emission from cosmic-rays interacting in the atmosphere above the telescope and enable the composition of primary cosmic rays to be measured with unprecedented accuracy. Two undergraduate students, from the University of Durham and the University of St Andrews, spent six weeks working on this project with Professor Ralph Spencer and Dr Justin Bray, as part of the Ogden Trust Internship Programme.

The students helped to assemble a prototype particle detector and use it to detect high-energy muons. They soldered together the component circuitry, tested different layouts for the optical components, and determined the optimum input characteristics for the radio-frequency-over-fibre links that will be required for transmitting the data. They also simulated the performance of the network of detectors that will be based on this design and deployed alongside SKA-low.


Report provided by Hilary Kay, UK SKA Outreach Officer