Scientific timeline

The scientific timeline for the SKA telescopes is linked to the construction schedule. The deployment is staged into four Array Assemblies (AA), detailed as follows

Array Assembly Key Information

Name Low Stations Date for Low Mid Dishes (SKA+MeerKAT) Date for Mid
AA1 18 C0+35 8+0 C0+34
AA2 64 C0+47 64+0 C0+44
AA3 256 C0+58 120+8 C0+58
AA4 512 C0+70 133+64 C0+67

where the dates are expressed as months after C0, which is the construction start date (1 July 2021).

Science commissioning will start as soon as the first dish/station is available on site. The planning for scientific observations involving the science community consists of four science milestones, with dates linked to the AAs.

  1. Science Verification will start once a sufficiently capable array of dishes or stations has been deployed and tested, with “Call for Suggestions” from the community. This is anticipated to begin 9 months after testing of the AA2 components is complete.
  2. As a transition between Science verification and normal PI observing, it’s foreseen that there could be at least one Cycle of “shared risk” PI science, which means that, should a scheduled observation be unsuccessful, there would be no guarantee that the proposal would be rescheduled. This is anticipated to happen 3 months after testing of the AA4 components is complete.
  3. Once the specific observation modes being offered in each time allocation cycle are fully commissioned, PI science will commence. This is anticipated to happen some 12 months after testing of the AA4 components is complete.
  4. Key Science Projects (KSP) observations are the most ambitious SKA proposals. They will typically require significantly more observing time than PI proposals, and be carried out over more than one observing cycle. This mode of observation requires a very good understanding of the telescope and maturity of the data analysis pipeline, which should be achieved two years after AA4 testing is complete. The process to apply for telescope time in this mode will happen however much earlier, to ensure the KSP teams are notified well in advance of their observations, and can secure the necessary resources.

With these assumptions, the science timeline is as follows:

Scientific Timeline
Last modified on 08 March 2024