Canada and the Square Kilometre Array

Canada was one of six founding members of the initial SKA consortium in 2000, and has maintained substantial involvement and engagement in the SKA over the ensuing 15 years. In particular, the Canadian Long Range Plan (LRP) for astronomy (2010-2020) has strongly prioritised continued Canadian participation in the SKA. Canada is currently one of 10 member countries of the SKA Organisation, and appoints two representatives to the SKA Board of Directors.

Canadian astronomers are playing leading roles in designing the marquee SKA science programs, including tests of gravity, galaxy evolution, cosmic magnetism, Dark Energy, and detecting transient systems. Canadian astronomers participate in 11 of the 13 SKA science working groups and focus groups, and serve on the SKA Organisation’s Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC).

Alongside these scientific efforts, NRC Herzberg has been working for more than ten years to develop key technologies for the SKA, with a focus on innovations that will have a high impact on scientific utility and potential use for the greater good of the Canadian economy. These key technologies include:

  • Correlator/beamformer signal processing
  • Cryogenic low noise amplifiers
  • High-speed direct-conversion digitizers
  • Phased array feeds

In addition, the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) and a Canadian university consortium are both involved in the SKA science data processing (SDP) consortium.

As well as working on the SKA itself, Canadian astronomers are developing a variety of new facilities and experiments aimed at testing the technology needed for the SKA. Foremost amongst these is the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), a unique new kind of radio telescope which is making a three-dimensional map of the Dark Energy that is accelerating the expansion of the Universe. Canadians are also the lead investigators on two of the ten surveys planned for the SKA pathfinder ASKAP, and are heavily involved in many of the other formally designated SKA pathfinders and prototypes