The UK Square Kilometre Array Regional Centre 2023-2025

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Physics


The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) is a large, next-generation radio telescope that is planned to be many times more sensitive than the current most sensitive telescopes in the world and transform our view of the Universe. It is a global mega-science project involving scientists and engineers from institutes and industry partners in 16 member countries.

The Observatory comprises two telescope facilities; one located in South Africa, SKA-MID, to observe radio frequencies between 350MHz and 15.4GHz, and one located in Australia, SKA-LOW, to observe lower band frequencies between 50MHz and 350MHz. The SKAO's Global Headquarters (HQ), from where the SKA Design Authority directs and manages the whole SKA Programme, is adjacent to the University of Manchester's (UoM's) Jodrell Bank Observatory (JBO), home to the iconic Lovell telescope and operational HQ of the e-MERLIN interferometer, an SKA Pathfinder instrument. The SKA is one of a small number of flagship astronomical instruments that will span the entire electromagnetic spectrum from radio to gamma rays, and beyond the electromagnetic spectrum to gravitational waves, cosmic rays and neutrinos, and whose collective aim is chart the full history of the universe from its beginnings in the Big Bang to the present day.

The operation of the SKA Observatory assumes the existence of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs) to deliver a range of support to the science community. The SRCs are required in order to provide the main portal for scientists to access the SKA including provision of computing resources and support to enable the science user community to analyse and extract science from data products produced by the SKA. An SRC Network (SRCNet) will be made up of SRCs distributed around the world in SKA Member countries. Each SRC will be required to conform to agreed standards in protocols, data architecture and information management policies to ensure that they appear as a single federated entity to SKA users. The SRCNet will provide a collection of both services and infrastructure that will comprise a global capability to distribute, process and curate the data from the SKA telescopes. The SRCNet will provide the basic governance and operational model and structures, and the baseline functionality of the SRC network. SKAO member states and SRC stakeholders are already engaging in the design of the SRC Network.

This joint proposal aims to deliver a working prototype of an SKA Regional Centre (SRC) node that will have 20% of the capacity and 80% of the functionality required by a SRC node when SKA becomes fully operational. The UK's contribution to this work will bring international expertise in the areas of wide field radio interferometry, all sky pulsar and transient detection, the characterisation of radio flux data, e-infrastructure, advanced cloud technologies, cloud and hardware platforms, remote job provision, high throughput network and data movement, big data performant storage systems and hierarchies, identity management, scientific computing, high performance and GPU computing, the FAIRirification of digital artifacts, the automated archiving, curation, collection and co-ordination of data artifacts. All these are needed for a programme of work from 2023-2025 to ensure workflows with large datasets (>10-100TB) are tractable on the proposed UKSRC proto-node by 2024 to prepare the UK SKA Science Community for SKA science and to allow the UK to participate in SKA engineering commissioning work from 2024 onwards.


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