Annual meeting of the SKA Mega-Science project in India

November 2016

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international effort to build the largest and the most sensitive radio telescope in the world. The SKA will be a collection of thousands of dishes and radio receivers spread across two sites in Africa and Western Australia. Currently, there are ten countries namely, Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and United Kingdom which are involved in the SKA mega-project, with several other countries interested to join in the near future. India, with significant experience and expertise in radio astronomy, is well placed to play a significant role in this international project. In particular, with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), operated by National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), India has an international class radio astronomy facility that has been accorded the status of a “SKA Pathfinder” by the SKA Organisation. Important technical and scientific developments that are being carried out at the GMRT, are providing valuable inputs to the teams designing the SKA. The GMRT also provides excellent opportunities for astronomers to try out science experiments of relevance to their planned quests with the SKA. NCRA-TIFR in Pune is the nodal institute for overseeing SKA related activities within India.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation holds science meetings every year which bring together astronomers from all over the world to present their latest results and discuss cutting edge science projects that can be achieved when the SKA becomes operational. Recognising that India formally became a member of the SKA in October 2015 and also as the upgraded GMRT is beginning to produce data which can be used as a preview to the first phase of SKA, the SKA Organisation has decided to hold its annual science meeting in India this year. The meeting is to be held in Goa, from November 7 to 11, 2016 and is expected to be attended by almost 200 scientists, including many from India. "Several Indian scientists are already working on research areas relevant to the SKA and this meeting, being held in India will help Indian scientists to become more involved with the SKA project and will give a big boost to SKA related science activities within the country”, said Prof. Swarna Kanti Ghosh, Centre Director, NCRA.

The discussions in the meeting will cover all the areas of research that are relevant for the SKA. These include discussions on various astrophysical objects starting from the nearby Sun to the origins of the Universe. The SKA will try to answer a number of interesting questions which, for example, include the search for extraterrestrial life, testing Einstein's theory of gravity, or measuring the period when the first stars formed.

This year's meeting focuses on bringing together early career researchers and senior scientists from the astronomy community to present their current work, develop new collaborations, and preview the science that SKA will do when it starts delivering early science results from 2023 onwards. The meeting will run for five days and will consist of talks, poster presentations and informal discussions within various sub-groups.

On this occasion, Prof. Philip Diamond, Director General of the SKA, said "India is a valuable partner in the SKA. With the upgraded GMRT and several decades of expertise in low-frequency radio astronomy, India has already been playing a significant role in some of the design aspects of the SKA, as well as participating in the discussions about the science that can be done with SKA-Phase 1. I look forward to continued involvement of India in both technical and science areas and
am particularly enthusiastic about hearing the talks at the Goa meet."

Prof. Yashwant Gupta of NCRA, Principal Investigator for the SKA related effort in India, added "The upgraded GMRT, with its wide frequency coverage and high sensitivity, provides an excellent test-bed to understand new issues, hitherto unexplored in detail, that are likely to confront us as the SKA is built and made operational.. "

Prof. Yashwant Gupta : 020-25719242 / 9881061930
Prof. Ishwara Chandra: 020-2571 9228/ 9403136630
Dr. Tirthankar Roy Choudhury : 020-25719270 / 8551072659
Dr. J. K. Solanki : 020 – 25719223 / 9890447888
Mr. William Garnier : +44 7814 908932

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