Astronomy with the Square Kilometre Array


November 10 14, 2003



The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be a revolutionary new instrument at centimetre and metre radio wavelengths, with an effective collecting area more than 30 times greater than Arecibo and 100 times greater than the VLA. Vigorous technological developments in computing and radio frequency devices make it possible for such a telescope, with one million square metres of collecting area, to be built by 2020. Such a telescope will be a discovery instrument with exquisite sensitivity, able to survey large-scale structure in the very early universe as well as pinpoint the details of radio emission near massive black holes in active galactic nuclei.


The workshop brought together 45 astronomers from around the world who are engaged in revising the science case for the Square Kilometre Array. The goals were two-fold: organise and write chapters of the science case, and secondly, select key science projects for the telescope. Each of the days began and ended with presentations on potential key science projects, with the rest of the day taken up with discussion in small groups on the science case chapters. Talks were given on Terrestrial Planet Detection (D. Wilner), General Relativity and Pulsars (M. Kramer), Dynamic Radio Sky (J. Lazio), Life Among the Stars (J. Tarter), Origin of Cosmic Magnetism (B. Gaenslar), Cosmic Web (E. Wilcots, R. Braun), The First Black Holes ( H. Falcke), Galaxy Formation and Evolution (J. M. van de Hulst), Epoch of Reionisation (S. Furlanetto), and Exploration of the Unknown (P. Wilkinson). In addition, an astronomy colloquium was given on Thursday afternoon by S. Rawlings on "Large-scale structure from present and future radio surveys". The final day was taken up with a plenary discussion on issues related to the science case, followed by a vigorous debate on the key projects and their impact on the technical specifications for the telescope. Consensus was achieved on five key projects, and these have subsequently been submitted to the International SKA Steering Committee for approval.


The workshop produced a clear direction for work on the science case and its publication as a book in mid-2004. The week's activities also clarified the SKA input to the symposium in May 2004 in Berlin on "Exploring the Cosmic Frontier: Astrophysical Instruments for the 21st Century". This symposium will explore the synergies of the various large instruments, approved and planned, in answering the main questions in astronomy and astrophysics.


The Lorentz Center facilities were particularly conducive to the informal interactions needed in planning and writing the science chapters. A number of participants expressed the wish to have such a centre in their own countries, Yolande van der Deijl and Martje Kruk were always on hand to ensure everything ran smoothly, and in this they were assisted by Melanie Johnston-Hollit from Leiden Observatory. Thanks to all three in helping make this a very successful workshop!


S. Rawlings (Oxford, U.K.)

R.T. Schilizzi (SKA Dwingeloo & Leiden University, The Netherlands)

C. Carilli (NRAO, USA)