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Word of the week: Precursor

We often use the word “precursor” when talking about SKA-related telescopes, so what do we mean by this? Richard Schilizzi, former Director of the SKA Project, who defined the term in the context of the SKA, explains:

One of the 36 ASKAP dishes.

One of the 36 ASKAP dishes.

“The SKA precursor telescopes are really what you call prototypes. They were designed primarily as engineering testbeds for the future SKA. You see, when building something the size of the SKA, it’s important to try on a smaller scale first to test and refine technologies and anticipate potential challenges on a larger scale.

Precursors are telescopes located on the SKA sites, so they refer specifically to three instruments: MeerKAT in South Africa, and ASKAP and MWA in Western Australia. This is in opposition to what we call pathfinders, which are instruments located elsewhere in the world and who contribute to the design and research around the SKA.

It’s also important to state that even though precursors are prototypes, their size makes them world-class science instruments in their own right, and they will already greatly contribute to the science fields covered by the SKA.”

For more on SKA precursors, visit our Precursor, Pathfinder and Design Studies page.

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