The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international collaboration to build the ‘World’s largest’ synthesis aperture telescope for radio frequencies. The science goals of the SKA include probing 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 the search of extraterrestrial life (SETI). This webinar mainly focused on the signal processing aspects of the SKA Phase-1 telescopes.

The online webinar commenced with a welcome and introduction about the speaker, Dr. Thushara K. Gunaratne given by the Staff Advisor of the IEEE SPS Student Branch Chapter of University of Moratuwa. The speaker began the session by briefly introducing “Radio Astronomy” and providing an overview about SKA. These telescopes are designed to have approximately one square kilometer of collection area. The huge collection area will contribute towards having unprecedented sensitivity for radio frequencies in these telescopes.The speaker then explained how these features drive the science goals mentioned above. It has been decided that the Murchison region of Western Australia will host the low-frequency (50-350 MHz) telescope, and the Karoo region in South Africa will host the mid-frequency (0.35-15.3 GHz) telescope. Next, the signal processing aspects of the Low-Frequency Array and Mid-Frequency Array in SKA telescopes were discussed. Finally, the speaker pointed out that even though the new advancements in the technology in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), fiber optics and machine learning techniques are encouraging, the increase in Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) in the selected ‘radio-quiet’ host sites poses new challenges for the design of the signal chain as well as the effectiveness of the telescopes. The audience clarified the subject matter discussed by the speaker, during the 30 minute Q&A session. This interactive and interesting session concluded with the Vote of Thanks by the Secretary of the society.

About the Speaker

National Research Council (NRC) Canada


Dr. Thushara K. Gunaratne was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 2004, he received the B.Sc. Engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, and the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Calgary, Canada, in 2007 and 2011, respectively. He is currently a Research Council Officer – Signal Processing at the Hertzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Center, National Research Council (NRC) Canada. He has been involved in the design and implementation of the signal chain for the Correlator Beamformer (CBF) of the SKA Phase-1 Mid Telescope. Previously, for a brief period of time, he was with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia and was involved in the Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS) for the SKA Phase-1 Low Telescope.