Science with the Square Kilometre Array: An Indian Perspective — A Special Issue of the Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy


The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is one of the most prominent and ambitious of the next-generation radio astronomy facilities. It is so large that planning, designing and building SKA requires the international collaborations of ten countries, India being one of them. The first phase, SKA1, is in the design phase, and is expected to be operational by 2022.  Indian scientists are looking to enhance their scientific contribution to SKA, and also to build a base of astronomers that will be prepared to use the facility when it is ready.  The science initiatives in different areas are coordinated by the SKA India Science Working Groups (SWGs). The Indian SWG is instrumental in creating awareness related to the SKA within the Indian scientists by organizing talks, workshops, meetings, etc.

The goals for SKA1 cover a wide range of research areas starting from understanding the formation of stars using hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen, to testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity using pulsars, to detailed understanding of some of the early phases in the life of the Universe. For example, SKA, with its unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution, is expected to play a significant role in shaping our understanding of the star and planet formation from the molecular gas residing in the interstellar medium. The study of fast transients, e.g. Fast Radio Bursts, is likely to be a significant area of research with SKA because of its wide field-of-view and high sensitivity. It is expected that the SKA will be able to reveal a few hundred to thousand new radio haloes, relics and mini-haloes, thus providing a comprehensive catalogue for studying the origin of synchrotron radiation from these sources.

The international community is busy developing the so-called ‘Key Science Projects’ (KSPs), i.e. large scale collaborative projects addressing key scientific questions. Indian astronomers, too, are looking to build up their science cases so that they are in a position to play significant roles in the appropriate KSPs of interest. The first task along these lines was to prepare a set of articles highlighting the science areas which Indian scientists are interested in, and also to provide initial plans for what they would want to do with the SKA. Various scientists have been working on preparing these science articles for quite some time now, and this Special Issue of the Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy is essentially the collection of all such articles. As one will see, the issue contains articles covering a wide range of science areas, almost all areas that are being explored by the SKA international community.  It is hoped that the present set of articles will provide a clear direction, both to the international as well as the Indian community, regarding the SKA-related science areas of current interest within India. It is also hoped that these articles will enthuse more astronomers to get involved with SKA, thus allowing the community to explore subjects beyond what has been covered in this issue. One can access the full articles here.

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