The Square Kilometre Array is a multi-national project to build the world’s largest radio interferometer with 10,000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes. The SKA and its pathfinder facilities will revolutionise many areas of astrophysics from Cosmology to Strong field tests of Gravity and Particle Physics. However, despite the fantastic potential of the SKA and its pathfinders for Galactic science, one of the smallest communities currently engaged with the SKA project is the Galactic astronomy community. Our aims were to bring together members of the SKA and pathfinder facilities with the Galactic astronomy community so that we could increase awareness of the capabilities of the SKA, build up the Galactic SKA community and develop well-defined science cases for the SKA and pathfinder telescopes.
During the workshop we discussed a wide range of science in context with the capabilities of the SKA and pathfinder telescopes. There were many stimulating and interesting discussions and presentations on many key areas in Galactic science (many of these presentations are available on the Lorentz Center meeting homepage). From these discussions it was clear that the SKA has the potential to make a tremendous impact on many key areas in the physics of the ISM, the early lives of stellar clusters, and stellar evolution. In Galactic astronomy the real step changes come in the transformative ability of the SKA in wide-area, sensitive high angular resolution spectroscopy, and in the unparalleled astrometric measurements in line and continuum. The SKA makes it possible to:
i) study the detailed flow of material through the atomic and ionised ISM
ii) pinpoint the proper motion and parallax of low-mass YSOs in nearby clusters and spiral arms, and massive star forming regions throughout the Milky Way.
iii) open up the field of wide-area formaldehyde absorption mapping to create a high dynamic range map of the molecular gas density in the Milky Way
iv) bring the study of stellar variability into the radio era.
We were very pleased with the outcomes of the workshop. Much of the science that was discussed and identified during the workshop was presented at the SKA 2014 Science meeting, Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array, held in Giardini Naxos 8-13 June 2014. This work will also be published in the new SKA Science Book. The science requirements for two new observational projects (anomalous formaldehyde absorption and VLBI maser astrometry) were outlined during the workshop and subsequently submitted to the SKA Project Office.
Finally, the focus for the Galactic SKA community provided by the workshop has led to the formation of a Milky Way SKA Science Focus Group within the SKA Project. We are particularly encouraged by this outcome as it provides a forum for the Galactic astronomy community to directly engage with the SKA project, ensuring the future development of Galactic science with the SKA.
Mark Thompson (Hertfordshire, United Kingdom)
Huib Jan van Langevelde (Leiden, Netherlands)