Progress on the construction of the South African SKA Pathfinder (MeerKAT) and the African VLBI Network &The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP)

My presentation will provide an update of the construction of the SKA pathfinder in South Africa, the MeerKAT, a 64-dish radio telescope which is due for completion in the first quarter of 2017.  Construction includes the establishment of the Karoo Radio Astronomy Observatory with its associated infrastructure, the protection of the Observatory and progress related to the manufacturing of the 13.5m Offset Gregorian antennas, the receivers and other telescope sub-systems.
The presentation will also provide an update on the African VLBI Network (AVN) which is a programme established by SKA South Africa in an effort to prepare the SKA African Partner countries for SKA2.  The AVN project entails the conversion of old telecommunications antennas and new build projects in various African partner countries.

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope is nearing completion at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Australia. ASKAP will be the fastest centimetre-wave survey instrument, capable of producing deep surveys of the entire visible sky. ASKAP is a precursor instrument to the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a global project to build the world’s largest radio telescope.

ASKAP consists of 36, 12-metre antennas, each of which is being fitted with a large chequerboard phased array feed (PAF) receiver. The PAFs operate from 0.7 to 1.8 GHz and each has 94 dual-polarization elements (188 receivers). The beamformers preceding the correlator provide about 36 beams (at 1.4 GHz) to produce a 30 square degree field of view. ASKAP also has high spectral resolution across the 300 MHz of simultaneous bandwidth. The data undergoes real-time processing producing high resolution images. To maximise signal to noise and minimise artefacts, each antenna incorporates a third axis, allowing it to spin, which keeps field of view and sidelobes fixed relative to the sky.

Six antennas have been fitted with first generation (Mk I) PAF receivers forming a test array that has proven to be a critical development instrument for researchers and engineers working in this new field of massive data rate, huge field of view radio astronomy that PAFs have enabled. Nine antennas are currently (February 2016) fitted with second generation (Mk II) PAFs, with the remainder to follow throughout the year. The Mk II PAFs offer significant performance, operational and manufacturing gains over the Mk Is.
A description of the ASKAP system, status and plans will be presented, along with scientific results from the test array and early performance results of the Mk II PAFs.

25/02/2016 - 12:30
Drs. Tracy Cheetham & Antony Schinckel
SouthAfrica - ASKAP Team, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Sydney, Australia