By Jasper Horrell and Francois Kapp, SKA South Africa Project Office, Cape Town
The SKA South Africa Project works closely with leading science and engineering teams around the globe. These collaborations make it possible to push the boundaries of science and technology towards fulfilling the scientific, engineering and technical requirements of the SKA. Some of the ongoing collaborations are:
An agreement with ASTRON (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) involving technical collaboration in the areas of:
- simulation and data reduction for commissioning, using the MeqTrees package;
- investigation of optimal data formats and storage architectures for the processing of large interferometric datasets; and
- investigation of the possible re-use and joint development or extension of observatory tools.
An addition to the existing agreement with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the USA to provide for collaboration in the areas of:
- radio astronomy calibration and imaging, focused on the scalability and performance speed-ups for the CASA software package;
- development of auto-flagging hardware (GPU-based) and software for the removal of corrupted data from the live data streams; and
- further development of CASA-based simulation tools for MeerKAT and EVLA/ALMA.
Participation in CASPER (Centre for Radio Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research) - a large collaborative project with groups from the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, India, Australia, Spain, Canada and more. CASPER's primary goal is to streamline and simplify the design flow of radio astronomy instrumentation by promoting design re-use through the development of platform-independent, open-source hardware and software, including the design of ROACH (Reconfigurable Open Architecture Computing Hard Ware). South Africa plays a major role in this collaboration for astronomy signal processing and electronics research, creating radio astronomy hardware and software tools.
Collaboration with the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, TIFRA, India and scientists at the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to focus on the development of next-generation radio astronomy tools.
Collaboration with the Istituto di Radioastronomia (INAF) in Italy on developing digital back-end technologies.
Collaboration on the PAPER (Precision Array to Probe Epoch of Re-ionization) experiment, which involves an agreement with the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and the NRAO. The main science objective is to image the formation of the first stars about 13 billion years ago by imaging the re-ionization of hydrogen. The Southern Hemisphere PAPER array is situated next to the MeerKAT site in the Karoo.
Collaboration on the C-BASS (C-Band All Sky Survey) experiment with the University of Manchester, Oxford University and the California Institute of Technology, to observe the Galactic Plane at a wavelength of 5cm in order to accurately measure the polarised foreground emission, mainly from the Milky Way. This will allow the accurate subtraction of the foreground emission from the emission of the Cosmic Microwave Background, to allow the detection of polarisation irregularities in the CMB.
Agreements with the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford to focus on the requirements document for MeerKAT, the overall MeerKAT project plan and its possible upgrades and MeerKAT technology developments.