Square Kilometre Array Preconstruction Phase

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

The Square Kilometre Array is a large international project to design and build the world's largest radio telescope. It will consist of three arrays of antennas: SKA-Mid, consisting of 250 dish antennas, in South Africa; SKA-Survey, a smaller dish array in Australia; and the Low-Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA), also in Australia. This grant supports the contribution of Oxford University to three of the consortia which are developing the detailed design of the SKA. The LFAA is one of the major elements of the SKA, comprising an array of 250,000 antennas working at frequencies up to 350 MHz (similar to FM radio). Oxford is leading the design of the hardware that will process the signals from these antennas and combine them in to many hundreds of 'virtual dishes', that can be pointed and steered electronically. In the Central Signal Processing consortium, we are designing the electronics that will combine the signals from these virtual dishes to form images, and also working on the systems that will search the signals from the LFAA and the dish arrays for transient and repeating signals, such as those from pulsars. In the Science Data Processor consortium we are developing software systems that will process the huge amounts of data coming out of the SKA, automatically producing science data products that astronomers can use, and storing and disseminating these data around the world. Much of the work, particularly in the hardware design, is being done in collaboration with UK companies who will also benefit from this research as they help us to develop state-of-the-art signal processing systems, which can have applications in many fields outside of radio astronomy.

Planned Impact

The aim of a large fraction of this proposal is to design hardware (and associated firmware/software) to do signal processing within the SKA, and this will be done largely by industrial partners. The SKA IP policy states that firms working on SKA development will be able to use the IP thus generated in other domains. We therefore expect this funding to lead directly to new products and services outside of radio astronomy being provided by the industrial contractors involved in the research.

Publications

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Acharya B (2013) Introducing the CTA concept in Astroparticle Physics

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Adámek K (2020) Single-pulse Detection Algorithms for Real-time Fast Radio Burst Searches Using GPUs in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

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Adámek K (2016) A polyphase filter for many-core architectures in Astronomy and Computing

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Brook P (2015) Emission-rotation correlation in pulsars: new discoveries with optimal techniques in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Brook P (2013) EVIDENCE OF AN ASTEROID ENCOUNTERING A PULSAR in The Astrophysical Journal

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Chapman E (2016) The effect of foreground mitigation strategy on EoR window recovery in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Chennamangalam J (2017) SETIBURST: A Robotic, Commensal, Realtime Multi-science Backend for the Arecibo Telescope in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

 
Description This grant has resulted in development of detailed designs of subsystems for several areas of the Square Kilometre Array. Much of the design work has now been incorporated in the the SKA adopted design, design work is continuing
Exploitation Route These results will be used in the construction of the SKA telescope.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics

URL http://www.skatelescope.org
 
Description Part of this award was used to help a UK company, Oxford Cryosystems Limited, develop a new helium compressor, for the SKA project. This is now an available product from the company. Also, staff funded on this award have engaged in highly visible public outreach, contributing presentations and direct public engagement at the Bluedot Festivals in 2016 and 2017. Staff also took part in delivering training courses to students in Africa as part of the DARA (Development in Africa through Radio Astronomy) Newton-funded programme.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description ASKAP-EMU survey 
Organisation Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Chair of Cosmology and Cross-matching working groups
Collaborator Contribution PI of survey, multi-national partners in different working groups
Impact Raccanelli et al. 2012 Camere et al., 2012 Norris et al. 2011
Start Year 2010
 
Description Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy 
Organisation Durham University
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of a radio receiver for research and training, to be used at the Goonhilly Earth Station
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to the running costs of the facilities at GES, in-kind contributions of equipment
Impact Grant from JANET to GES to connect Goonhilly to the JANET data network.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy 
Organisation Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Construction of a radio receiver for research and training, to be used at the Goonhilly Earth Station
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to the running costs of the facilities at GES, in-kind contributions of equipment
Impact Grant from JANET to GES to connect Goonhilly to the JANET data network.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy 
Organisation University of Hertfordshire
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of a radio receiver for research and training, to be used at the Goonhilly Earth Station
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to the running costs of the facilities at GES, in-kind contributions of equipment
Impact Grant from JANET to GES to connect Goonhilly to the JANET data network.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy 
Organisation University of Leeds
Department School of Physics and Astronomy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of a radio receiver for research and training, to be used at the Goonhilly Earth Station
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to the running costs of the facilities at GES, in-kind contributions of equipment
Impact Grant from JANET to GES to connect Goonhilly to the JANET data network.
Start Year 2010
 
Description Consortium of Universities for Goonhilly Astronomy 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Construction of a radio receiver for research and training, to be used at the Goonhilly Earth Station
Collaborator Contribution Contributions to the running costs of the facilities at GES, in-kind contributions of equipment
Impact Grant from JANET to GES to connect Goonhilly to the JANET data network.
Start Year 2010
 
Description ICRAR Profiling 
Organisation International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
Country Australia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration on developing profiling and benchmarking framework, for characterising and modelling scientific workloads for the SKA Telescope. * Research - methods and technologies from previous profiling experience * Software - development of framework * Hosting of code repository * Grant proposal contributions
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration on developing profiling and benchmarking framework, for characterising and modelling scientific workloads for the SKA Telescope. * Research - methods and technologies from previous profiling and MWA Telescope experiences * Software - development framework * Invitation to ICRAR * Grant proposal contributions
Impact Journal article is currently being co-authored by this collaboration pertaining to the work that is on-going. Proposal has recently been submitted (Nov 2014) to the Australian Research Council that includes the use of the profiling work formed from this collbaoration. The work being undertaken is multi-disciplinary and is the union of computer science (OeRC) and radio astronomy (ICRAR), to solve and identify domain specific, with wider scientific applicability, issues surrounding performance of software and hardware, along side power consumption. Currently, the OeRC provides expertise with profiling systems and hardware. ICRAR brings expertise in radio astronomy and experiences gained from running the MWA telescope.
Start Year 2014
 
Description LOFAR Surveys 
Organisation Leiden University
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Member of the management team and lead the cosmology working group
Collaborator Contribution Reduction of data, joint definition of survey strategy, running the survey
Impact Publications
 
Description LOFAR Surveys 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Member of the management team and lead the cosmology working group
Collaborator Contribution Reduction of data, joint definition of survey strategy, running the survey
Impact Publications
 
Description SKA Aperture Array Delivery Consortium 
Organisation ASTRON Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron) leads this consortium of several research institutes which is designing systems for the Square Kilometre Array. Oxford is contributing to the design of the digital signal processing system and the overall system design.
Collaborator Contribution Other partners are contributing design to all other aspects of the SKA low-frequency aperture array system.
Impact Design documents internal to the SKA project.
Start Year 2013
 
Description SKA Central Signal Processing Consortium 
Organisation NRC Canada
Country Canada 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution NRC leads the SKA central signal processing consortium. Oxford contributes design of signal processing systems for detection and analysis of pulsar signals.
Collaborator Contribution Other consortium members provide designs of other aspects of the SKA signal processing system including beamformers and correlators.
Impact SKA internal project documents
Start Year 2013
 
Description SKA Dish Consortium 
Organisation Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution CSIRO leads the SKA Dish consortium which is designing the dish antennas and receivers for the SKA. Oxford is leading the design of one of the receiver packages.
Collaborator Contribution Other consortium members are designing the dish antennas and other receiver packages.
Impact SKA internal project documents
Start Year 2015
 
Description SKA Science Data Processing Consortium 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Cambridge leads the SKA consortium planning the science data processing system. Oxford contributes expertise in algorithms and high performance computing.
Collaborator Contribution Other consortium members contribute many areas of expertise in scientific computing.
Impact SKA internal project documents.
Start Year 2013
 
Title OSKAR 
Description The OSKAR package consists of a number of applications for the simulation of astronomical radio interferometers. OSKAR has been designed primarily to produce simulated visibility data from large aperture arrays, such as those envisaged for the SKA. The computation performed by OSKAR applications is accelerated using NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs). 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact OSKAR plays a key role in the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) by providing simulation capability to the Science Data Processor (SDP) and Low Frequency Aperture Array (LFAA) consortia. By explicitly evaluating the response from radio sources across the whole sky and allowing for complex station beam effects, OSKAR enables simulations that were previously impossible to perform. Although developed to simulate data from the SKA, OSKAR has been used within a number of other projects in the radio astronomy community. 
URL http://www.oerc.ox.ac.uk/~ska/oskar/
 
Title SKA cryogenic receiver 
Description A multi-feed receiver with low noise, high efficiency when installed on a suitable antenna, low power consumption and low manufacturing costs. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Potential for UK manufacture for the SKA. 
 
Title uvwsim 
Description The uvwsim library provides a simple C API for generating interferometric baseline (uvw) coordinates. This library has been developed for use with various SKA.SDP tasks. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2014 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This software provides a tool to evaluate interferometer baseline distributions, and can be used within SKA-SDP for the development of algorithms such as gridding. 
URL https://github.com/SKA-ScienceDataProcessor/uvwsim
 
Description Many-core seminar (Oxford), 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

Unknown impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.oerc.ox.ac.uk/projects/cuda-centre-excellence/2014-many-core-presentations
 
Description Oxford Astrophysics Stargazing event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Oxford Astrophysics holds an annual 'Stargazing' public event with ~500 attendees. Staff from this research project take part in talks and demonstrations explaining the SKA project and astrophysics in general to the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018,2019
 
Description SKA stand at Bluedot Festival, Jodrell Bank 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Members of our research group staffed an SKA stall at the Bluedot Festival (music/science) at Jodrell Bank in 2016 and 2017. They explained the SKA project and astronomy in general to members of the public (several hundred encounters from the ~5000 people attending the festival). Our staff reported strong interest and appreciation from the members of the public they spoke to.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017