The large-scale Apertif surveys with the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) that started on 1 July 2019 will continue to be supported during 2021.
Apertif (Aperture Tile In Focus), a next generation observing system using focal plane array technology, has been installed on the WSRT in 2018 in order to significantly expand the field of view and the survey speed of the telescope, enabling new, innovative types of astronomical research.
The first official data from Apertif were released in November 2019 (see the Apertif Long Term Archive (ALTA)). These data demonstrate the potential of Apertif. The data are from the Science Verification Campaign (SVC) undertaken in Spring 2019 to demonstrate the scientific readiness of the Apertif system. Work towards the first public data release of survey data for both the time-domain and imaging surveys continues, with a release planned for Q3 2020. The first papers from Apertif have been published (e.g. Repeating fast radio bursts with WSRT/Apertif and A bright, high rotation-measure FRB that skewers the M33 halo).
During the remainder of 2020 and 2021, the WSRT will be dedicated to survey obervations with Apertif. Lessons learnt during the operation of the Apertif system and the scientific insights from the Apertif surveys will play a crucial role in preparing the community for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
In making this significant commitment to support 2021 operations, ASTRON will review the observing strategy for 2021 in October 2020. The balance between the time-domain and two imaging surveys (wide/shallow and medium-deep), will be reviewed on the basis of scientific output, scientific potential and data legacy value. The latter point, legacy value, is critical and requires the open provision of high-level data products of high scientific value to a broad community of multi-wavelength astronomers.
In announcing this decision to the team, ASTRON Director, Carole Jackson, acknowledged the huge amount of teamwork that has made Apertif a success. ASTRON will similarly review its capacity to continue Apertif operations into 2022 during 2021.