Square Kilometre Array Design (SKADS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The 'Square Kilometre Array' (SKA) will be an international radio telescope with a collecting area of one million square metres - equivalent to about 200 football pitches - making SKA 200 times bigger than the University of Manchester's Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. The four-year Square Kilometre Array Design Study, SKADS, brings together European and international astronomers to formulate and agree the most effective design. The final design will enable the SKA to probe the cosmos in unprecedented detail, answering fundamental questions about the Universe, such as 'what is dark energy?' and 'how did the structure we see in galaxies today actually form?'. The SKA concept was first proposed to observe the characteristic radio emission from hydrogen gas. Measurements of the hydrogen signature will enable astronomers to locate and weigh a billion galaxies. It will also test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to the limit - and perhaps prove it wrong. It will add to the long list of fundamental discoveries made by radio astronomers including quasars, pulsars and the radiation from the Big Bang. The design will be complete by 2010 and building SKA with full operation in 2020. Another target for the SKA is pulsars; spinning remnant of stellar explosions which are the most accurate clocks in the universe. A million times the mass of the Earth but only the size of a large city, pulsars can spin around hundreds of times per second. With the SKA we will find a pulsar orbiting a black hole and, by watching how the clock rate varies, we can tell if Einstein had the last word on gravity or not. The scale of the instrument needed to fulfil these science goals is huge, a total of 1,000,000 square metres of collecting area spread across a continent, but the technology required to fulfil the potential of the instrument is in many ways more daunting. The SKADS effort is based on phased array receivers. When placed at the focus of conventional mass-produced radio 'dishes', these arrays operate like wide-angle radio cameras observing huge areas of sky. A separate, much larger, phased array at the centre of the SKA constantly scans the sky. Catalyst funding has been provided by the European Commission of 27% of the total of ¤38M funding over the next four years.The UK has invested £5.6M (¤8.3M) funding provided by PPARC. The UK's is contributing 30% of the SKADS programme. The UK is concentrating on sophisticated digital phased arrays and the distribution and analysis of the enormous volumes of data which the SKA will produce. The main technological design aim of UK SKADS is to produce a dual polarisation all-digital phased array 'tile' approximately 1m by 1m, so call '2-PAD'. This will represent the culmination of a number of fundamental system design studies into array antenna element design; very low cost semiconductors for the critical low noise amplifiers (LNAs) at the antenna and the very high speed analogue to digital converters (ADCs) which put the received signal into the digital domain; considerable research into very high speed digital processing techniques which are affordable in terms of cost and power and the reduction of interference both external and self-induced by the equipment. This development is expected to be the highest performance phased array tile for astronomical purposes available at the end of the project. The requirements and performance of a simulated SKA will be investigated when used for selected astronomical observations. The results will be key to deriving the target specification for the SKA and will be used extensively by the engineering groups. The communication and computing resources of a completed SKA will be simulated in order to find the optimal configurations. Techniques for distributing very accurate time signals will be worked upon and demonstrated. This is vital to a radio telescope using many receiving systems sometimes separated by thousands of kilometres.

Publications

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Alexander, P (2012) System design for SKA capable Aperture Arrays in 2012 INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ELECTROMAGNETICS IN ADVANCED APPLICATIONS (ICEAA)

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De Lera Acedo, E.,Ghods, N.R.,Scott, P.,Doherty, P.,Grainge, K.,Faulkner, A.,Alexander, P.,Drought, N.,Troop, N.,González-Ovejero, D.,Raucy, C.,Craeye, C.,Van Der Merwe, P.,Reader, H.C. (2012) SKA AA-low front-end developments (At Cambridge University) in Proceedings of 6th European Conference on Antennas and Propagation, EuCAP 2012

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De Lera-Acedo, E.,Razavi-Ghods, N.,Garcia, E.,Duffett-Smith, P.,Alexander, P. (2009) System noise analysis of an ultra wide band aperture array element for low frequency radio astronomy

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Geisbuesch J (2009) Cosmic magnetic fields in galaxies, groups and clusters in Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union

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Geisbuesch J (2009) Cosmic magnetic fields in clusters of galaxies and their analysis in Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union

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Geisbuesch, J.,Alexander, P. (2010) Applying Bayesian Analysis to Radio Polarization Data

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Graff P (2012) BAMBI: blind accelerated multimodal Bayesian inference in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Green D. A. (2011) A colour scheme for the display of astronomical intensity images in BULLETIN OF THE ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OF INDIA

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Grigorescu G (2009) Cost-effective infrastructure in a multi-antenna telescope layout in Experimental Astronomy

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Harsono D (2011) Global gravitational instabilities in discs with infall in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description This grant supported the Square Kilometre Array design Studies. These Research and Development studies addressed key technology issues for the the SKA, the next generation radio telescope. The main advances made include: development of a full system description and costing model; development of an early design for a low-frequency antenna; analysis of the computing requirements for the SKA.
Exploitation Route The SKA is the next generation radio telescope. It is also a major BigData challenge. The results form this work enabled the project to progress through to its current stage and importantly defined the project as one of the main global infrastructural projects. The SKA is now a major Big Data iconic project.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics

URL http://www.skads-eu.org
 
Description The findings of this work have been used to take forward the global Square Kilometre Array Project. The SKA is the next generation radio telescope. It is also a major BigData challenge. The results form this work enabled the project to progress through to its current stage and importantly defined the project as one of the main global infrastructural projects. The SKA is now a major Big Data iconic project. We are now working on the detailed design of the SKA software and computing system as well as the low-frequency aperture array. The former is of significant impact on the ICT industry and the latter has many design implications for Digital communications.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description EC FW6 SSA
Amount £485,925 (GBP)
Funding ID RIDS 011938 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 07/2005 
End 12/2009
 
Description LOFAR-UK 
Organisation Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The LOw Frequency ARray, LOFAR,is a radio telescope working at the lowest frequencies accessible from Earth. Combining many thousands of simple dipole receivers (just like the one in your radio at home) with the latest in high tech computing, LOFAR will be able to survey wide areas of the sky all at once and will open up a new window for astronomers. When completed, LOFAR will consist of over 5,000 separate antennas spread in "stations" all over Europe. The main project is based in the Netherlands, and most of the array will be there, but outposts are planned in Germany, France, Sweden, Poland and the UK. Several stations are now working, and the array was officially opened in June 2010.
Collaborator Contribution As above
Impact As above
Start Year 2007
 
Description LOFAR-UK 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The LOw Frequency ARray, LOFAR,is a radio telescope working at the lowest frequencies accessible from Earth. Combining many thousands of simple dipole receivers (just like the one in your radio at home) with the latest in high tech computing, LOFAR will be able to survey wide areas of the sky all at once and will open up a new window for astronomers. When completed, LOFAR will consist of over 5,000 separate antennas spread in "stations" all over Europe. The main project is based in the Netherlands, and most of the array will be there, but outposts are planned in Germany, France, Sweden, Poland and the UK. Several stations are now working, and the array was officially opened in June 2010.
Collaborator Contribution As above
Impact As above
Start Year 2007
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Netherlands, Kingdom of the 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM)
Department Astrophysics and Cosmology
Country Spain, Kingdom of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Cardiff University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Leiden University
Department Leiden Observatory
Country Netherlands, Kingdom of the 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Max Planck Society
Department Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation National Institute for Astrophysics
Department Bologna Observatory
Country Italy, Italian Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Africa
Country South Africa, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Department Physics and Astronomy Department
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation University of Lisbon
Country Portugal, Portuguese Republic 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Description SKADS 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution SKADS collaboration was an EC funded programme in addition to STFC/PPARC funded. ASTRON were the lead organisation.
Collaborator Contribution ASTRON was the lead organisation. Cambridge led work package 3
Impact All publications prior to 2010
 
Title Costing tool 
Description The Costing Tool is a software tool to facilitate the costing by a team of engineers of a large project. It implements model based and component-based costing methodologies and enables cost models as well as cost estimates to be made. The tool is used by the SKA Organisation for developing the cost estimates of SKA Phase 1. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact The software tool has the potential to be a commercial product aimed at the Engineering / construction large project market. It is currently fit for purpose and is in use in the SKA project, for a fully commercial product a better user interface and str 
 
Title SKALA 
Description The SKALA is a novel antenna design for low-frequency radio astronomy offering excellent performance over a wide bandwidth from 40-800MHz. The antenna is optimised for low-noise performance and sky coverage. 
Type Of Technology Systems, Materials & Instrumental Engineering 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact This antenna design is currently the favoured design of antenna for the SKA low-freqency aperture arrays. In the final SKA approximately 3,000,000 antennas of this sort will be deployed. The antenna will also likely be adopted (or variants of it) for a 
 
Title Trenchcoat 
Description Trenchcoat is a software tool to optimise trenching routes for a complex data / power network. optimisation is against cost and system complexity. The software optimises the trenching routes subject to fixed nodal points which must be served by the different networks and takes into account geographic and other constraints (e.g. land ownership, cost of access, cost of digging or other costs). 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact The tool is in use for the SKA and was used extensively in developing the site options for the SKA and will continue to be used throughout the detailed design and costing phase. 
 
Description BBC Radio 4 Material World 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Live science show with Quentin Cooper, invited to discuss science with ALMA

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description BBC Sky at Night 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact 2012 - Invited to discuss infrared astronomy and ALMA
2006 - Invited to discuss science with the HARP spectrometer on the JCMT.

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006,2012
 
Description CUAS Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Popular talk with questions and answer session at end. Talk to local undergraduate Astronomical Society.

Raised profile of astronomical research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Cambridge Science Festival Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cambridge Science Festival Open Day 2013: presented ALMA display to several hundred members of the general public

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Institute of Astronomy Public Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two public talks at the Institute of Astronomy open evenings: audience of about 150-200 members of the public.

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011
 
Description Media Tour of ESO Chilean Observatories 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Media tour of ESO Chilean observatories with UK Science Journalists: A staff member accompanied a large group of UK mainstream science journalists to the Paranal and ALMA Observatories in Chile to act as scientific guide in 2007.

Resulted in a large number of broadsheet and tabloid press articles.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
 
Description Naked Scientists Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Discussion on science with submm astronomy

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Newspaper and Magazine Interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Numerous interviews with major newspapers and magazines relating to ALMA science and press releases

Raised research awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011
 
Description Night School Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Seminar with questions and answer session at end

Raised profile of astronomical research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
 
Description Physics Centre Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Popular talk with questions and answer session at end for 300 students each time.

Raised profile of astronomical research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2012
 
Description Physics at Work 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talks on current astrophysical research to attendees at "Physics at Work" Exhibition. Part of Department's Physics at Work outreach programme. Talks with question and answers afterwards to groups of about 15.

Raised profile of Physics at Work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
 
Description Sutton Trust Summer Schools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Tour of Observatory, with informal talks, and questions and answer sessions, for about 20 sixth form students each year. Lecture on current astronomical research related to the Cosmic Microwave Background to Sutton Trust Summer School students.

Raised profile of astronomical research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
 
Description Television appearance for SKA and ALMA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Appearance by Alexander and Cambridge SKA team on a regionally commissioned TV short feature on research at Cambridge and featuring the SKA and ALMA.

National TV reach explaining research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Television short programme for SKA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Appearance and interview by Alexander and Cambridge SKA team in STFC commissioned publicity short movie for SKA opening.

TV boradcast
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Tours of Observatory 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The astrophysics group provides regular tours of the observatory for schools and other interested groups by appointment. Tours are operated by a senior member of staff and one or more graduate students acting as guides.

Impact on visitors explaining our research
Impact on schools encouragement to participate in science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,