PAPER has been operating on the Karoo site in South Africa for over four years. The Karoo provides a unique environment on planet Earth, with remarkably low interference from man-made radio transmissions, thereby enabling sensitive observations at low radio frequencies.
PAPER currently consists of 64 dipole antennas arranged in a grid formation over a 300 m clearing. Plans are underway to double the number of antennas at the Karoo site to 128 by September 2013.
The correlator, a custom built array of supercomputers responsible for processing data received from the antennas, will also double in size. This will be amongst the world’s largest and most powerful correlators used for radio astronomy. The effective doubling in collecting area will dramatically increase the combined sensitivity of the instrument and thereby improve the probability of making a detection of the faint Epoch of Reionization emissions – this would be a major scientific breakthrough.
PAPER operates two arrays, the primary science instrument in the Karoo and a secondary, smaller, sister array in Green Bank, West Virginia in the USA. Together, these two arrays provide full sky coverage of both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Scientists from the SKA Project office working on PAPER collaborate with partners at American research institutions, such as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania.