Australian SKA Project Director Update

May 2017
  

I recently attended the OzSKA 3 meeting in Sydney, a two-day update to Australia’s astronomical community on progress towards the SKA. I left the meeting impressed by the breadth of Australia’s SKA effort and inspired by the major scientific breakthroughs the SKA will make possible.

Significant activity continues in Australia and around the world to prepare for SKA construction, and we’re making headway on a number of fronts. Australian organisations will continue to be active in the pre-construction design process with the support of $7.6 million in Australian Government funding awarded to six organisations this week. The grants build on an initial $18.8 million provided to Australian organisations in 2013.

In March, Australia welcomed the board of the SKA Organisation to Perth for its twenty-third meeting. The board continues to focus on cost control measures, particularly those that build on technology from precursor telescopes like MWA and ASKAP, which are already located on Australia’s SKA site.

While in Australia, board members travelled to our SKA site to observe the antennas developed for the SKA low frequency array. The board was able to talk with site staff about ASKAP and MWA, and the challenges associated with operating telescopes in such a remote location. Members of the board and I also had the pleasure of touring Perth’s Pawsey Supercomputing Centre that will house the supercomputer that will process SKA data.

In February and April of this year, I participated in negotiations for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with representatives of the Wajarri Yamaji, the traditional custodians of the land where the SKA will be located. The April negotiations also included a visit to the future SKA site and the ASKAP and MWA telescopes, this time to see firsthand how radio telescopes can exist harmoniously with the land.

The SKA has featured prominently in the news so far this year, with major articles in the Australian Financial Review and Cosmos Magazine. We also saw the ABC Radio National’s show ‘off track’ feature the SKA during a recent episode.

Our first two research fellows: Natasha Hurley-Walker and Warren Bax have returned from the SKA head office in the United Kingdom. Their experiences will be invaluable to future design and development of the SKA. New Fellows, Attila Popping and Martin Meyer, are currently in the UK this month.

Over the next few months, the Australian SKA Office will focus towards greater engagement with industry, as we prepare for SKA contracts to be issued over the next few years. I look forward to providing further updates about this and other important matters in due course.

David Luchetti
Australian SKA Project Director

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