21 October 2021

A look into the future of astronomy research infrastructures

At the BSBF Astronomy Webinar on 6 October, speakers from the astronomy research infrastructures, ESA, ESO, SKA, EST, and CTAO, talked about the technologies that will drive future projects in their organisations.

Participants were given up to date information about their strategies, their research and development programmes, and how industry could become involved.

Space projects are often big and complicated, and often handle huge amounts of data. This will drive method development in virtually all aspects of data handling and analysis. Academia and industry are generally involved in the early phases of development, and then industry is contracted to finalise and deliver the systems. 

Development in many of the big astronomy projects is well advanced, and investments will be required over a long period. An example is the SKA radio telescope, which was first discussed in the 1990s. Construction contracts began in 2018 and, when completed, the radio telescope will comprise two vast telescope farms, located at remote sites in South Africa and Australia. 

Sweden has been involved in the development of the SKA project for more than a decade. As a cooperative entity to SKA, Chalmers University of Technology will be leading the Swedish engagement, and Swedish companies will be supplying products for use in the construction of the telescopes. 

Astronomy research infrastructures all over the world are identifying needs in different fields of technology, such as IR detectors, data collection, time synchronisation, and Big Data and machine learning.

Engage in continual dialogue with ILOs

In his presentation, Guenther Hasinger, Director of Science of ESA, emphasised that astronomy research infrastructures will open new opportunities for industry in complex projects that will extend over many years. He encouraged all participants to engage in continual dialogue with ILOs in each country to ensure they stay up to date with the latest developments.