SKA Press briefing

 SKA PRESS BRIEFING

Tuesday 27.06.2017 – 12.30pm – Press room

The SKA project is nearing the end of pre-construction phase. Ahead of construction, the international scientific community is getting organised and looking at possible synergies and collaborations with other facilities. In this press briefing we will highlight three promising areas of research where the SKA is expected to bring a crucial contribution.

Ms. Manisha Caleb

The Fast Radio Burst phenomenon

In April of this year, Ms Manisha Caleb from the Australian National University and Swinburne University published results from the discovery of 3 new Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) using the Molonglo radio telescope in Australia, an SKA pathfinder. These were the first discovery of FRBs using an interferometer, providing scientists with greater accuracy to identify their origin and paving the way for their study with the SKA.

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are intense millisecond-duration bursts of radio waves believed to originate beyond our own galaxy, and whose source is unknown. Until now, FRBs had been detected exclusively using single dish antennas, and only after the event by sifting through data. Due to the limited resolution of individual dishes, their localisation in the sky is not accurate, making it difficult to figure out their origin.

Ms. Caleb will briefly introduce these results and relate them to the future research on FRBs in the era of the SKA.

Prof. Alberto Vecchio

The synergies between SKA and gravitational wave observatories

The discovery of gravitational waves by LIGO last year proved a groundbreaking moment for fundamental physics, finally proving a long-standing theory. Three weeks ago, LIGO confirmed for the third time a detection of gravitational waves, triggered by the cataclysmic merger of two black holes about 3 billion years ago and only last week, the LISA mission was selected by ESA.

With this third detection, scientists are beginning to close in on their goal of using gravitational waves as a way of observing ancient events that would otherwise be invisible, opening a new chapter of astronomy.

Prof. Vecchio will summarise the latest LIGO results and looking forward, will explain how the SKA will complement gravitational wave observatories.

Dr. Steve Croft

The Breakthrough Listen Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Breakthrough Listen is the largest ever scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of civilizations beyond Earth. The scope and power of the search are on an unprecedented scale.

The program includes a survey of the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth. It scans the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane. Beyond the Milky Way, it listens for messages from the 100 closest galaxies to ours. The initiative will span 10 years and commit a total of $100,000,000.

The radio telescopes currently used include the 100m Green Bank Telescope in the US and the 64m Parkes Telescope in Australia, an SKA Pathfinder instrument, and Breakthrough have also signed agreements to collaborate with the 500m FAST telescope in China and the 76m Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory where the SKA Headquarters is located.

Dr. Croft will describe the goals of Breakthrough Listen, discuss the latest developments and the future of Breakthrough with the SKA.

About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by the SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – the SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2019, with early science observations in the early 2020s.