Astronomers take planning for ASKAP Early Science to the next level

ASKAP Early Science Community Workshop 2015.

9 October 2015

Over 70 astronomers gathered this week to focus on ASKAP Early Science during a community workshop held at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

The workshop explored the scope, implementation and expected science outcomes of the ASKAP early science project, which is due to begin in 2016.

Specifically, discussions during the workshop revolved around planning for “ASKAP-12” – the shorthand name for the telescope made up of 12 ASKAP antennas at the MRO, each installed with the latest version (Mk II) of CSIRO’s phased array feed (PAF) receivers.

Key to the planning for early science is the consideration of how to produce the most scientific impact from ASKAP-12 observations, while demonstrating the unique capabilities of this new telescope.

“Whilst planning our projects one of the key questions to consider is; does this observation showcase ASKAP?” said ASKAP Project Scientist Lisa Harvey-Smith, “Are we optimising the wide field of view? Is this a bread-and-butter observation for our phased array feeds?”

After hearing members of the ASKAP team provide updates on the scope and delivery plan for ASKAP early science, updates on commissioning activities, integration and software, representatives of the eight ASKAP Survey Science Teams currently engaged in early science planning were invited to update the room on their current work.

With an estimated 1800 hours of available time for early science, the teams considered how ASKAP-12 might be used – whether it is to track galaxy transformation, map galaxy evolution over cosmic time, improve current existing galactic astronomy data, consider the relationship between supermassive black holes and their environment, and even explore opportunities to do science that wouldn’t be possible with any other instrument.

As the current activities with the 6-antenna test array, BETA, will come to an end as more of the Mk II PAFs are installed and commissioned, it was also noted the important role the Mk I PAFs have played in gaining understanding how the system works, allowing software and firmware development, and providing the proof-of-concept for ASKAP’s new technologies.

Not only this, but multiple discoveries and exciting initial science achieved during BETA commissioning bodes well for the scientific benefit that ASKAP-12 may provide.

An underlying theme throughout the day was commensality, and how astronomers will manage their allocated observation time but also look at opportunities for sharing dataset between projects.

“If you can do something at the same time as someone else, that’s fantastic,” said Lisa, “Now that we have the confidence that we’ll have early science data next year, broad participation in planning for the next steps will only lead to the highest possible scientific impact.”

A summary of outcomes from the ASKAP Early Science Community Workshop 2015 is now available.

To join the monthly Early Science Forum teleconference, please email a request to the ASKAP Project Scientist.

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