Sixty-five astronomers from 12 countries will take part in an international workshop, held this week in Perth, Western Australia, to discuss advances on the path to the 1.5 billion Euro Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The astronomers will discuss technologies used to connect radio telescopes across continent-scale distances, critical for extending the SKA over at least 3,000 kilometres.
They will also discuss the science that the SKA will undertake, including the study of distant black holes, rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars, and the investigation of solar system formation, that is watching planets form around stars in our Galaxy.
The head of the Scientific Organising Committee for the workshop, Professor Steven Tingay, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at Curtin University, said the workshop was a great opportunity for the international community to come together and discuss what was needed to build the SKA.
“We will need scientists, engineers and IT experts to connect telescopes over continents, especially people who understand high speed optical fibre networking,” Professor Tingay said.
Experiments are currently underway using high speed connections between existing radio telescopes, including seven telescopes in Australia and New Zealand, using a technique called electronic Very Long Baseline Interferometry (e-VLBI). In Australia, this work is carried out in collaboration between ICRAR and CSIRO.
e-VLBI is a testbed for the SKA, which will require connections to telescopes about 500 times faster than current speeds and 500,000 times faster than the typical home internet connection.
ICRAR and CSIRO will use the e-VLBI technique to connect the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, currently under construction in the Murchison region of Western Australia, to other telescopes in the Eastern States and New Zealand.
“We are looking forward to presenting our recent results at the workshop and seeing what the other groups around the world are up to,” he said.
Australia and New Zealand are one of two regions left in the bidding for the 1.5 billion Euro SKA, the other being South Africa. The Australia-New Zealand bid has the ability to host the full SKA in an optimal configuration, by utilising existing infrastructure to connect telescopes between Western Australia and New Zealand.
The workshop will be held at Perth Zoo on 18 – 20 October, a location where the international participants can interact with Australia’s unique wildlife.
Professor Steven Tingay, Professor of Radio Astronomy, Curtin
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