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Inclusive SKA Engineering Meeting

Submitter: Jan Noordam
Description: More than 230 ingenieurs and astronomers from all over the world gathered in Manchester (UK) last week to punctuate a new elan of the Square Km Array (SKA) project. The meeting was held in the stadium of a local soccer club, which sparked some wishful football metaphors. But the rapturous gaze of the participants was resolutely aimed in another direction.

The multi-billion Euro SKA telescope will be designed and built by the worldwide community of radio-astronomical institutes, in close collaboration with industry. Over recent months, 11 multi-national consortia, and several advisory bodies, have formed to address the various components and aspects of the SKA, which is to be sited in the southern hemisphere. They presented their plans, and discussed the crucial interfaces between them. At the same time, astronomers edged closer to a "finally final" list of requirements that define the formidable capabilities of the new instrument within a tight cost envelope.

Big Science projects take a long time to mature. The SKA was born in Dwingeloo in 1990, and really got started in Lhee in 1991. Since then the development of LOFAR (and other precursor telescopes) has provided a wealth of real experience towards SKA. Unsurprisingly, ASTRON participates in most of the consortia, often in a leading role, while JIVE also takes part.

The overall process is firmly coordinated by the SKA Project Office at Jodrell Bank (near Manchester), which has recently been given a strong impulse. By next January it is expected to have a staff of 48. At the present pace of things, they will have precious little time to knit themselves into an authorative team that can hold the many strands together.

The plan is to have this kind of focused but inclusive general meeting every year, to allow the many contributors to become a real community, i.e. to get to know each other and to carry each other along in their enthousiasm for what will be one of the defining telescopes of the 1st century of the new millenium.
Copyright: Madroon Community Consultants (MCC)
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