SKA News and Updates

It has been a very busy start to 2018 for two Australia-based SKA scientists. Dr Shi Dai from CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science and Dr Jack Line from University of Melbourne were the round two recipients of the Australian SKA Fellowship. This provides an opportunity to contribute directly to the design of a global mega-science project while developing new skills, experiences and networks.

The Fellows travelled to Manchester for seven weeks to work closely with colleagues at the Square Kilometre Array Organisation (SKAO) Headquarters.

Dr Dai used his experience studying pulsars to work with the SKAO Science Group to predict the number of pulsars that the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) could detect. He also contributed to the development of an optimal strategy to conduct pulsar surveys using SKA-Low and SKA-Mid.

Dr Line used his visit to create a resource for the Epoch of Reionisation (EoR) community. Working with colleagues, he developed a method to simulate SKA-Low observations, allowing scientists to better understand the data challenges they face. His fellowship allowed him to work on different code and software that will be a resource for the EoR community.

Both Dr Dai and Dr Line shared their work, giving talks at the SKAO, Jodrell Bank Observatory and Imperial College London.

The Australian SKA Fellowship facilitates the strengthening of professional relationships between Australia based scientists and their SKA colleagues around the world. The face-to-face collaborative experience allows the Fellowship recipients to easily pool expertise, learn new methods and to contribute to solving problems being faced by other SKA scientists.

Both Dr Dai and Dr Line have confirmed that the experience greatly benefitted their professional development.

“I made some great working relationships which will greatly help in my career, and developed software which will serve me well in years to come,” Dr Line said.

Dr Dai also spoke highly of the Fellowships Programme.

“I think my visit to SKAO was very successful and extremely useful to me. It gave me a chance to learn different aspects about the SKA, from technical details, to various science cases and its [future] operation.”

Applications for the 2018-19 Australian SKA Fellowship will open in August 2018. For more information, please visit the Australian SKA Fellowships Programme webpage.

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MeerKAT launch offers glimpse into the heart of the Milky Way

16 July 2018

MeerKAT image of black hole at the centre of the Milky WaySKA Australia congratulates our SKA Africa counterparts on Friday’s inauguration of the MeerKAT radio telescope by the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr David Mabuza and the Minister of Science and Technology Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, MP.

The launch of South Africa’s 64-dish radio telescope is the latest milestone in the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope.

MeerKAT is one of four precursor telescopes that are located on future sites of the SKA in Australia and South Africa. These precursors are carrying out scientific study related to future SKA activities, as well as helping the development and testing of new crucial SKA technologies. Eventually, MeerKAT will be integrated into Phase 1 of the SKA telescope.

“MeerKAT stands at the end of a chapter, and at the start of another one,” SKA Director-General Prof. Phil Diamond said in his address at the inauguration ceremony. “South Africa and the South African people should be proud: this is a fantastic milestone for the country, that will certainly make history. Now the science can start in earnest, and you can reap the scientific benefits of all your hard work.” Read Prof. Diamond's full speech on the SKA website.

These precursors are all powerful instruments in their own right, and have already contributed to important astronomical discoveries.

The power of MeerKAT was on display at the launch with the unveiling of a visually stunning panorama captured by the telescope. The image reveals in unprecedented detail the region surrounding the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. The centre of the Milky Way, 25,000 light-years from Earth, is forever enshrouded by intervening clouds of gas and dust, making it invisible from Earth using optical telescopes, but radio wavelengths pass through the dust.

Alongside MeerKAT, the HERA (Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization) precursor is currently under construction. Australia’s SKA site, the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, is home to the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) andCSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP).

Construction of the SKA is due to begin in 2020.

The full media release is available on the SKA Africa website.

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First SKA-low prototype station completed on site

25 May 2018

AAVS1-ICRARCongratulations to the Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS1) team on their completion of the first SKA Low prototype station. With a full station of 256 low-frequency antennas deployed, this marks a crucial engineering milestone in the SKA project.

This was part of a global effort by 12 engineering consortia and involving 500 engineers and scientists from 20 countries. Nine of the consortia focussed on telescope components, each critical to the overall success of the project, while others developed advanced instrumentation for the telescope.

The installation team included members from Australia, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, over many months. They were tested by the harsh conditions of Australia’s SKA site, but it is clear that they enjoyed the challenge.

“This is a significant achievement by the team, they have done a fantastic job.” said AAVS1 Project Manager Pieter Benthem, from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). “Putting together and testing the verification system has been an amazing experience.” he remarked.

AAVS1 is currently being connected to the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), one of four SKA precursor telescopes. By combining the data of the AAVS1 station with the MWA, engineers will be able to fully characterise its ‘on-sky’ performance.

The consortium is now also entering its critical design review process for SKA Low, with the review to commence later this year.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the lessons we’ve learnt from AAVS1 will be fed into the larger design process for SKA Low” said ICRAR Associate Professor Randall Wayth.

AAVS1 and MWA are strongly supported by scientists, engineers and data-intensive astronomy specialists from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, Western Australia.

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Shared Sky on display at European Commission Headquarters

18 April 2018P036753000301-177001_lowres.jpg

Shared Sky – the Square Kilometre Array’s indigenous astronomy art exhibition – has opened its doors at the European Commission Headquarters in Brussels. On its 8th stop across the globe, European Commissioner Carlos Moedas formally welcomed over 80 guests to the exhibition opening on Monday, as EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation.

This thought-provoking and expansive exhibition brings together indigenous and local artists from Australia and South Africa, to celebrate humanity’s ancient cultural wisdom and the impressive SKA project.

“We need to inspire European citizens with Science and Art,” he said. “This deep desire from a young age to try and understand the sky is common to humanity, but also this connection between our ancestors and the sky, and the intersection between Art and Science. It’s an inspiration for the people of Europe.”

Commissioner Moedas was joined by Dr Catherine Cesarsky, Chair of the SKA Board of Directors, and representatives from Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, and South Africa. “The collaboration for Shared Sky between peoples from different cultures and different fields echoes the international science and engineering collaboration of the SKA project – breaking down cultural barriers in pursuit of a common goal,” added Dr Cesarsky.

Shared Sky is on display at the European Commission Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium from 16 – 28 April 2018. Read more about this inspiring exhibition here.

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MeerKAT publishes first scientific paper

6 April 2018MeerKat SKA South Africa.jpg

Congratulations to the SKA Africa team on their recent scientific paper, the first using South Africa’s MeerKAT telescope. Scientists successfully observed the behaviour of rare radio magnetars, with findings published in The Astrophysical Journal. These magnetars are so rare, only four have been discovered to date.

“Well done to my colleagues in South Africa for this outstanding achievement.” Congratulated Prof. Phil Diamond, Director-General of the SKA Organisation. “This publication shows that MeerKAT is becoming ready for business. As one of the SKA precursor telescopes, this bodes well for the SKA,” he said.

This is the first publication of an astronomical discovery using data from the new MeerKAT telescope. Read the paper here.

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Detection of earliest stars bodes well for SKA

1 March 2018

Edges radio spectrometer low res - CSIRO Australia.pngA US-based team led by Dr Judd Bowman has detected the first stars to form after the big bang using a small telescope at the CSIRO-managed Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory (MRO). The discovery was made using the EDGES telescope to sort through radio signals from across the Universe, to pin-point a tiny, faint signal from 13.8 billion years ago. It’s being heralded as a triumph of precision engineering by a top astronomy team.

The discovery has big implications for the SKA which will enjoy the same radio-quiet conditions that made this discovery possible. Dr Robert Braun, Science Director at the SKA Organisation explains:

“This is a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved with the combination of an excellent site and world-class engineering, boding well for the great discoveries that will be enabled by the SKA,” said Dr Braun.

“While the EDGES team have made a detection of the ‘global signature’, that is averaged over the sky, of the Cosmic Dawn, the SKA will allow very precise measurements to be made of the structures within the Universe during this crucial, early heating phase. It may even be possible for the SKA to form the first direct images of these structures; pointing to the locations of the very first stars and galaxies to have formed.”

Read about the discovery at the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC and the Conversation.

Also, find out more about mysterious ‘Dark Energy’ and the ‘Epoch of Reionisation’ – the big science questions explored by the EDGES team.


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First SKA dish antenna unveiled


6 February 2018

The first fully assembled SKA dish was unveiled at a ceremony in China today. The prototype antenna will soon be tested in South Africa where hundreds of dishes will eventually form the SKA-Mid array. The dish was developed in China as part of a consortium of international partners including institutions from Australia.

The fully assembled prototype is a major milestone for the SKA as we build towards the beginning of construction in 2019. The dish is one of two SKA antennas at the prototype testing phase, with SKA low frequency antennas currently being tested at Australia’s SKA site in Western Australia.

Find out more.


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New discoveries for unique fast radio burst

11 January 2018Arecibo_FRB_01-2018.jpg

A new astronomy research paper published today in the journal Nature has been widely reported due to the unexpected twist it adds to the mystery of the fast radio burst (FRB) astronomical phenomenon. The paper presents new information on a known FRB, uncovered using data from Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. This FRB is unique in two ways – the signal repeats itself, and the radio waves are rotating which indicates an extremely strong magnetic field at the source of the signal, such as might be generated by a massive black hole.

FRBs are usually a single millisecond-long radio flash, and they were first identified in 2007 using the Parkes Radio Telescope. Last year, CSIRO’s ASKAP detected a new FRB after just four days of searching. In the future, ASKAP and other next-generation telescopes including CHIME, UTMOST, APERTIF and the SKA will be used to observe the estimated 10,000 daily detectable FRBs, hopefully shedding more light on this intergalactic mystery.

A few of the many articles reporting the discovery can be read at ICRAR, CNN and Popular Mechanics, or you can find the published scientific paper here.

Photo credit: Brian P. Irwin / Dennis van de Water /


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South African students on exchange to CSIRO

30 October 2017

Two students from South African universities have been selected to participate in the second round of the joint CSIRO-SKA South Africa Vacation Work Scholarship. Charissa Button and Zahra Kader will be heading to Australia in December 2017 to work at the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) Headquarters in Sydney.

During the exchange, which concludes in February 2018, they will each undertake an astronomy-related research project. 'It is a wonderful privilege to be able to study Astronomy and to be part of the SKA Project,' said Button.

Read more about it here.



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SKA Board appoints new Chair

17 October 2017

Astronomer Dr Catherine Cesarsky has this month been appointed as Chair of the SKA Organisation Board. Dr Cesarsky takes over the position from Professor Lars Börjesson, who has been interim Chair since Professor Giovanni Bignami tragically passed away in May 2017.

Throughout her distinguished career, Dr Cesarsky has held the title of Director General of the European Southern Observatory, President of the International Astronomical Union, and Vice-President of the CERN council, among other prestigious roles and accolades.

Learn more about the appointment and Dr Cesarsky’s research and career achievements here.






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Synchronisation systems chosen for SKA

13 October 2017

An optical fibre-based synchronisation system designed by an Australian team from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has been selected for the SKA mid-frequency telescope in South Africa.

When transported over the long distances between SKA antennas, the stability of transmitted signals can degrade. With this system, the signals can be synchronised with extreme precision – five parts in a trillion – before they are combined by the SKA supercomputers.

A synchronisation system designed by China’s Tsinghua University was chosen for the SKA low-frequency array in Australia.

Visit ICRAR’s website to find out more about their high-tech solution for the SKA. 


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SKA at the International Astronautical Congress

9 October 2017

The 68th International Astronautical Congress was held in Adelaide, South Australia from 25-29 September 2017. The Australian SKA Office participated in a number of activities during the week, in addition to our presence in the Australian Government exhibition booth.

To find out more and see all the photos, click here.






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Mount Magnet Astrofest 2017

29 September 2017

The community of Mount Magnet was treated to an evening of stargazing and astronomy for ‘Astrofest’ on 25 August 2017, organised by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

Public viewings of the sun and the night sky were facilitated by volunteers who set up telescopes including the largest privately owned telescope in WA. Locals took part in activities such as meteor spotting, a laser-guided tour of the night sky, science shows from Scitech, and opportunities to learn about the work of ICRAR and the SKA.

If you’d like to find out more about the Mount Magnet Astrofest and see some fantastic pictures of the event, head over to the ICRAR website.


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Backyard astronomy helps explosive discovery

5 September 2017



A member of ICRAR’s outreach and education team has helped observe a super-luminous "Nova" and confirm a theory of why these phenomena are as bright as they are—all with a backyard telescope located in suburban Perth. The paper about the result has been published in Nature Astronomy.

For more information and imagery, or to read the paper, click here.


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ICRAR's 4th Year Book released

21 August 2017

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has recently published Volume 4 of their Year Book, for the period 2015-16. This biennial publication captures key activities of the Centre and profiles its researchers and students through engaging writing and eye-catching imagery.

To read the Year Book you can view it online, or simply download the pdf.






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CNET showcases the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory

7 August 2017

As part of CNET’s innovation series called “The Smartest Stuff”, journalist Michelle Starr visited the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) and toured the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder and Murchison Widefield Array telescopes. Read the article here to find out more about the trip, and intriguing stories of the unexpected challenges faced by the engineers and scientists as they built the MRO’s infrastructure.

In addition to the article, you can also see photos from the visit here.



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Ministers visit SKA site

4 August 2017

On Wednesday 2 August 2017 the Australian and West Australian Science Ministers toured the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) to learn about Australia’s preparations for the SKA telescope. During the visit, the Ministers learned about the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the SKA low-frequency test array recently deployed on site. They also toured the MRO Control Building and the on-site off-grid power station.

Read the full story and see photos from the visit here.



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SKA Scholarship opportunities to Australia for Chinese PhD students and Postdocs

1 August 2017

Applications have recently opened for China SKA PhD scholarships and SKA Postdoctoral Fellowships. Recipients will undertake placements of up to 2 years at an Australian university or research institution, including CSIRO, while working on projects related to SKA radio astronomy.

These opportunities are sponsored by ACAMAR, the Australian-China Consortium for Astrophysical Research, in conjunction with both Australian and Chinese research centres. The Australian National University’s Centre for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) is supporting PhD scholarships and PhD travel scholarships. NAOC, the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, will be co-funding the ACAMAR SKA Postdoctoral Fellow position.

Applications close on 25 September 2017, with announcements made by the end of the year. For more information, including the list of participating Chinese Universities and application requirements, please see the PhD scholarships webpage, and the Fellowship Scheme webpage.


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SKA-CERN Cooperation Agreement on Big Data

18 July 2017

SKA Organisation and CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, today signed an agreement formalising their growing collaboration in the area of extreme-scale computing. When phase 1 of the SKA is completed, it will generate around 300 petabytes of data products every year. Despite phase 1 only representing 10% of the whole SKA, this amount of data is still ten times more than today’s biggest science experiments.

Read more about this agreement between two of the largest producers of science data on the planet on the SKA Organisation website.


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ASKAP Discovers Its First Fast Radio Burst

23 May 2017

The ASKAP radio telescope has discovered its first Fast Radio Burst (FRB) after only four days of searching. The discovery came so quickly that ASKAP near Geraldton in Western Australia, looks set to become a world leader in this area of radio astronomy. The signal, named FRB170107, originated from the edge of the constellation Leo.

You can read more about the discovery here.


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7.6 Million in Pre-construction Grants Awarded

17 May 2017

The Australian Government has awarded $7.6 million to Australian organisations to support their work to design the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The funding is being provided through the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda as part of the second round of the SKA Pre-construction Grants Program. It builds on $18.8 million provided in the first round of grants in 2013, and will allow for continued development of key components of the SKA. Once designed, construction of the SKA in Australia and South Africa is due to begin later this decade.

To learn more click here.


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New SKA Headquarters Breaks Ground

28 April 2017

The Office of the Square Kilometre Array Organisation broke ground on a new global headquarters building today. Located at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in County Cheshire (UK), the headquarters building will be home to more than 135 staff from more than 13 countries, tasked with managing the construction and operations of the Square Kilometre Array telescope, in South Africa and Australia.

You can read more here


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Radio National Features ASKAP

2 April 2017

Ann Jones of Radio National's program 'Off Track' recently visited the ASKAP and Murchison Radio Observatory. She interviewed Aboriginal Liaison Officer Leonie Boddington about the history and culture of the land upon which the Radio Telescope sits. Additionally ASKAP project director Anthony Schinckel discusses the science and infrastructure at the site.  

You can read more here


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Scholarship Helps South African Students 

22 March 2017

Recently two students from South Africa participated in a summer scholarship programme sponsored by CSIRO and SKA South Africa to study projects supporting SKA. This marks the first time the programme has been open to students outside Australia. They collaborated with Australian researchers to investigate pulsars and machine learning for the SKA. It is anticipated that this summer school will continue in the future to foster further astronomy collaboration between Australia and South Africa.  

You can read more here

South African students Tokiso Motoai and Katherine James

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Speaker Series: Dawn of the New Space Age

20 March 2017

If you are in Canberra on 4 April don't miss Professor McClure-Griffiths speak about the SKA and the future of radio astronomy research. The SKA will be more powerful than previous telescopes giving researchers the opportunity to glimpse further into the past. Learn how Professor McClure-Griffiths will increase our understanding of the Milky Way using the SKA by attending her talk.


Find out more here.


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OzSKA 3 Meeting - May 2017 

20 March 2017

Following the success of the previous OzSKA meetings a 3rd meeting will be held in Sydney 8-9 May 2017. The meeting will provide updates to the Australian astronomical community about recent progress in the SKA project including: the development of key science and working group activities, progress towards the realisation of scientific operations on SKA1, and the SKA in the context of multi-wavelength astronomy.

You can register for OzSKA 3 by following this link. Registration closes 28 April 2017.


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The Science Behind the SKA: One Engineers Story 

10 March 2017


The SKA is one of the most complex scientific instruments ever developed. It will require a large international team from a variety of disciplines to make the project a reality. One research engineer, Mia Baquiran is doing just that. 

You can read about her work here



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Cosmos Magazine Chronicles SKA

27 February 2017

Science Magazine Cosmos has done a cover story on the SKA. The article discusses the technological hurdles facing the SKA as well as the management of the project.

You can read the full article here

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SKA Featured in Australian Financial Review

24 February 2017

The Australian Financial Review has published an article on the SKA after a visit to the site in Western Australia. The article discusses the challenges of building a large-scale project as well as the organisations, people and science behind its development.

You can read the full article here
Local wildlife exploring the Murchison Widefield Array.
   Credit: Trevor Collens

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Minor Planet Named Bernardbowen 

18 February 2017

Founding chair of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Dr Bernard Bowen, has been honoured for his scientific accomplishments by having a minor planet named after him. He was instrumental in establishing ICRAR in 2009, an important milestone in bringing part of the Square Kilometre Array telescope to Western Australia. He is renowned as one of Australia's finest science administrators.


An image showing the orbit of Minor Planet Bernardbowen. Credit: IAU

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Australia-New Zealand Agreement Supports SKA Collaboration

17 February 2017


The Australian and New Zealand governments have signed a cooperative agreement to maximise research and innovation opportunities between the nations. Under the Agreement, Australia and New Zealand will work together to further develop data management capabilities for the SKA. 

To learn more click here.



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SKA Telescope is Recruiting

9 February 2017  

There are two positions available with the SKA Organisation in the United Kingdom.

  • System Engineer (Verification)
  • SKA VLBI Scientist

Applications close starting 18th February. For more information and to apply online please visit the SKA Telescope site


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Promising Result from Dutch SKA Pathfinder Technology

3 February 2017

The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) has successfully tested their new multi-pixel receiver capable of mapping an area of the sky 40 times larger in a single session than traditional radio receivers.

The technology is similar to CSIRO’s award-winning Phased Array Feed receivers developed for the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope. Australia, the Netherlands and other SKA partner countries will collaborate to further develop this technology for integration into the SKA.

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March 2017 SKA-Low Meeting

12 January 2017

The second call has gone out for the 'Realising SKA-­Low: new technologies & techniques for imaging and calibration of low frequency arrays’ conference to be held in Perth on 29-31 March 2017.

A large body of knowledge has been accumulated in the field of low frequency radio astronomy in recent years. The conference is to share this information and assess how lessons learned from the SKA pathfinders and precursors and other low frequency arrays can inform the final design of SKA-Low.

The program will be a mix of invited and contributed papers. A draft program is available here.

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2016 Project Updates

2015 Project Updates

2014 Project Updates

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