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Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge



The 2021 African Radio Interferometry Winter School, a series of free online workshops presented by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) in collaboration with the Cavendish Laboratory and Kavli Institute for Cosmology in Cambridge / REACH project and the Radio Astronomy Techniques and Technology (RATT) will take place virtually from 28th June to 2nd July.

The African Radio Interferometry Winter School focuses on the theoretical and introductory tutorial aspects of radio interferometry, to train the next generation of students and young professionals from South Africa and other African countries. Researchers from the Radio Experiment for the Analysis of Cosmic Hydrogen (REACH) project at Cavendish Astrophysics, Kavli Institute for Cosmology in Cambridge and the Institute of Astronomy have helped organized the school and will be delivering key lectures on radio cosmology, data analysis and instrument design.

REACH is a spin-off project from the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.

As part of the SKA efforts, REACH is an international collaboration of researchers led by Cambridge that is currently building a telescope in the remote semi desertic area of the Karoo in South Africa. REACH is partially funded by the Kavli Institute for Cosmology in CambridgeStellenbosch University and the Cambridge-Africa initiative.

The SKA project will be the largest radio telescope in the World at the time of its completion in 2028. It is also a mega international project with tens of countries involved, hundreds of researchers actively working on its development and three host countries (UK, South Africa and Western Australia). The UK, and specifically Cambridge, through a group of researchers at the Cavendish Laboratory led by Prof. Paul Alexander, have led the design of many aspects of the telescope (e.g. software for data analysis, array antennas and low noise electronics, electromagnetic modelling) for over a decade. The telescope, the most powerful of its kind, is meant to revolutionize the way we study the sky, with unprecedented sensitivity and survey speed. The SKA telescope as it is known, will aim at unveiling some of the remaining mysteries of the Cosmos, including key scientific projects on the study of magnetic fields in the Universe, detail studies of Gravity, the origin of stars and the cradle of life amongst some of the most relevant ones.

As a vast international collaboration with hundreds of highly skilled people working on it, the project also offers many opportunities for wider impact in society, including human capital development in one of the host continents (Africa).

Radio Astronomy, thanks to the SKA, has gained prominence in the African continent as a whole, and specially in south Africa. It has also brought many opportunities for development of key skills for the next generations, including engineering, science, mathematics, and many others. The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) has led in activities for expanding the impact of radio astronomy and the SKA beyond its most immediate scientific results. An impressive human capital development programme has been put in place targeting the education and training of the next generation of African leaders in science and technology. This programme includes student bursaries, public events, workshops, schools and many others.

Eloy de Lera Acedo, REACH Principal Investigator and STFC Ernest Rutherford Fellow, said: “We are extremely proud to be involved with some of the human capital development activities organized by the SARAO and in particular the Winter School.

“This has been hugely inspirational for the REACH researchers, and we look forward to taking part and virtually meeting the hundreds of students already signed up for the school”.

“REACH‘s involvement with these human capital development activities won’t stop with the school, and the team is already preparing a 3-day Workshop focused on the science and technology behind REACH to take place in early 2022. This workshop (again under the framework of the activities led by the SARAO) will allow a group of students to gain a deeper understanding and training on several STEM topics ranging from advanced mathematical modelling, statistics, electronics, digital systems and many more.”

The Winter School is open for registration. To sign up and for more information visit African Radio Interferometry Winter School – SARAO.

Images: Above, the organizers of this year’s school. Below, pictures from the last school organized by the SARAO. Credit: SARAO