The SKA Key Science Workshop kicked off on Monday 24th August in Stockholm, Sweden. In attendance of the event which terminated on Thursday the 27th, were some 150 astronomers from 23 different countries. The event also marked the first of a series of such workshops to occur over the next three years with the purpose of defining large-scale collaborative projects that will look at some of the key scientific questions the SKA hopes to answer.
Particularly, the meeting aims to start discussing the goals and composition of the major international teams that will carry out these key science observations in the first five years of operation of the telescope. During this period, around 50% of the telescope time is expected to be dedicated to these high-priority observations.
Many major areas of astrophysics are covered in these key projects including, among others, cosmology and the study of dark matter and dark energy; the search for life in the Universe through the study of molecules in forming planetary systems and the search for potential radio signals from intelligent civilisations; looking back at the cosmic dawn – the first billion years – of the Universe and the apparition of the first stars to study the distribution of hydrogen; mapping the thousands of pulsars in our galaxy; looking for gravitational waves and monitoring the sun’s activity.
Representing UWC, Prof Roy Maartens, Prof Russ Taylor, Dr Prina Patel and Prof Mario Santos contributed to the ongoing discussions which comprised several working and focus groups, each carrying a specific concentration on a prospective SKA science area. In addition to this, some participants gave a series of talks explaining the topics and proposed science in further detail. Two of these were given by our very own, Santos and Taylor, who spoke on Cosmology and Cosmic Magnetism, respectively.*
In addition to the workshop, the SKA Science Book which threads together all the various research possibilities the project will offer has been published. This large double-volume collection of 135 fully refereed papers contains the main science observations we hope to carry out using the SKA.
*Find a full outline of the talks as well as a copy of the presentation slides and videos at this link.