SKA Pathfinders

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be the next generation large radiotelescope, far surpassing current capabilities and giving astronomers insight into the formation and evolution of the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, the role of cosmic magnetism, the nature of gravity, and possibly life beyond Earth. If history is any guide, the SKA will make many more discoveries than we can imagine today.

While the design and development of the SKA moves forward, a number of SKA pathfinders are currently operating and being built around the world, including the newly improved Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA).

Wisconsin astronomers are heavily involved in the science to be carried out by the suite of SKA pathfinders being developed around the world.  


The MeerKAT array, currently being built in the Karoo region of South Africa, will be the largest array in the southern hemisphere until the SKA itself is complete in the 2020s.  UW astronomers are part of three MeerKAT key projects:

  • LADUMA (Looking at the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array) - an ultra-deep survey looking for neutral hydrogen in the early Universe (Bershady, Wilcots)
  • MHONGOOSE (MeerKAT HI Observations of Nearby Galactic Objects: Observing Southern Emitters) - a survey of local galaxies; dark matter and the cosmic web. (Wilcots)
  • MIGHTEE (MeerKAT International GigaHertz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration Survey) - Deep continuum observations of the earliest radio galaxies. (Gallagher, Wilcots)

Preliminary observations for each survey will begin with the completion of the first seven MeerKAT dishes and fully ramp up when the array is complete in 2016.  SALT will play an important and complementary role for all three surveys."


The Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a next-generation radio interferometer being built by CSIRO in Australia.

It will consist of 36 12-m antennas, each with a focal plane phased array. The large field of view, large spectral bandwidth, fast survey speed, and excellent u-v coverage will make ASKAP an unprecedented synoptic telescope.

UW astronomers are actively involved in two ASKAP surveys:

  • GASKAP (Galactic ASKAP survey) - to study the 21-cm line of HI and the 18-cm lines of OH in the Galactic plane and Magellanic Clouds. (Gallagher, Haffner, Lazarian, Stanimirovic, Wakker, Zweibel)
  • WALLABY (Widefield ASKAP L-band Legacy All-sky Blind surveY) - an all-sky HI survey to redshift of z=0.25 expected to detect 500,000 galaxies (Wakker, Wilcots)
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