The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest radio observatory. In this presentation I will talk about the key questions in modern astrophysics that have motivated the design of the SKA instruments and the technical factors that influence the location of the two SKA telescopes in South Africa and Australia. SKA precursor instruments are already operating and I’ll highlight some of the spectacular scientific results that are being produced at the moment, in particular from the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa. Software and computation are integral to the SKA telescopes and I will talk through the different stages of processing that are performed for the telescope and the scale of the data volumes involved. I’ll also discuss how we intend to distribute the data around the world to different scientific communities and the big data challenge that SKA data analysis presents.
Anna Scaife is Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Manchester, where she is head of the Jodrell Bank Interferometry Centre of Excellence and academic Co-Director of Policy@Manchester. Her research focuses on the use of artificial intelligence for discovery in data-intensive astrophysics and is supported by the UK’s Alan Turing Institute. She has previously led a number of projects in technical radio astronomy development and scientific computing as part of the Square Kilometre Array project, including the design of the computing and storage for a European SKA Regional Data Centre. In addition to her scientific work, Anna runs two training programs that provide bursaries for students from Southern Africa and Latin America to pursue graduate degrees in the UK focusing on big data and data intensive science. In 2014, Anna was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of thirty scientists under the age of 40 selected for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering or technology in areas of high societal impact. In 2017 she was awarded the Blaauw Chair in Astrophysics (prize chair) at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands for excellence in research, broad knowledge of astronomy and an outstanding international status in astronomy. In 2019, Anna received the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, awarded for outstanding invention, improvement, or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques.