A consortium of French research institutions and industry has become the 12th member of the SKA Organisation following approval of its accession by the SKA Board of Directors.
The decision to accept the request of CNRS, Europe’s largest research organisation, for membership was taken at the 27th meeting of the SKA Organisation board of directors in Cape Town, South Africa.
CNRS is the leading organisation for the participation of French institutions in the SKA through the Maison SKA-France consortium, a national coordination that includes five research organisations:
- Paris Observatory
- Côte d’Azur Observatory
- Orléans University and
- Bordeaux University
Chair of the SKA Board of Directors Dr Catherine Cesarsky said: “We are delighted to welcome these leading French institutions to the SKA Organisation.
“France is a major player, with a long tradition of astronomy and radio astronomy. Their accession is testament to the growing international interest in the SKA project, which is progressing in leaps and bounds.”
Dr Chiara Ferrari, Director of Maison SKA-France added: “We are thrilled to have reached this critical step. Momentum has been building steadily in France over the past few years with strong interest from major industry players, but also from the science community and major institutions like CNRS.”
Collaborating with the SKA Organisation
France has already contributed greatly to the SKA project as an observer country, with its engineers participating in several of the international design consortia, and French researchers being involved in all 11 of the SKA’s Science Working Groups.
The momentum towards membership has gathered pace in recent months, with the SKA being featured as a project on the French national research infrastructure roadmap, published by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in May. Last year also saw the publication of the French SKA White Book, highlighting France’s research interests in the SKA.
Dr Michel Pérault, who has been the observer from CNRS said: “We look forward to further increasing our involvement and submit a convincing funding case to the French government, that would secure industrial participation from French companies in the construction and operation of the SKA, and access to the telescope for our scientists.”
France’s previous history with the SKA Organisation
France has a 70-year history of radio astronomy, and its Nançay Radio-astronomy Station is home to antennas of an International LOFAR station and of the New Extension in Nançay Upgrading LOFAR (NenuFAR), both SKA pathfinder facilities.
Another SKA pathfinder, the Electronic MultiBeam Radio Astronomy ConcEpt (EMBRACE), has a station at Nançay. It is also the site of the famous Nançay Radio Telescope (NRT), inaugurated in 1965 by President Charles De Gaulle, which is today engaged in observations of galaxies, comets and pulsars.
France has also been instrumental in the development of millimetre radio-astronomy with the construction and operations of IRAM observatory with its partners and its later participation to ALMA through ESO.