ICRAR Deputy Director and workshop organiser, Professor Peter Hall, said the agenda included the design and construction of antennas to allow the SKA to detect low-frequency radio waves from objects throughout the Universe (SKA-low).
Professor Hall said with new technology and signal processing techniques, flashing radio sources, called pulsars, and other fast, 'transient' radio sources could be better detected using lower frequency radio telescopes.
"This makes SKA-low an even more essential part of the SKA as a whole", he stated. "Given ICRAR's strong hands-on international collaborations and our leading role in low-frequency pathfinders for the SKA, such as the Aperture Array Verification Programme and the Murchison Widefield Array, we are well-placed to host a meeting that will get the ball rolling on plans for this part of the telescope", Professor Hall stated.
"The low-frequency portion of the SKA will observe the Universe at longer wavelengths than more familiar dish antennas that operate at higher frequencies. A major goal of SKA-low is to observe the first structures in the very distant Universe as they formed. ICRAR researchers have also recently shown the importance of SKA-low in observations of the changing, or dynamic, radio sky."
"Australia, together with New Zealand, is bidding to host the SKA, which requires an extremely radio-quiet location. SKA-low will be particularly sensitive to radio interference and a location like Australia's candidate core site, in WA's Murchison, will allow a high-performance, cost-effective SKA-low."
Professor Hall said a number of engineers had also come to Perth armed with prototype SKA-low antennas to be tested alongside local designs in ICRAR's laboratory at Curtin University.
"Since we launched ICRAR two years ago, we've been building expertise, not only in radio astronomy, but also engineering and ICT, all of which play an important role in the design, construction and eventual operation of the SKA", he stated. "This puts us in an excellent position to contribute significantly to the international effort."
ICRAR Science and Technology Advisory Committee Chair, Professor Ron Ekers, said ICRAR's time-domain astronomy theme, which investigates rapidly changing radio sources, ties in very closely with the SKA-low developments.
"The wide field of view of the SKA and its sensitivity to time-variable phenomena opens a new and almost unexplored research area", Professor Ekers stated.
General Director of ASTRON in the Netherlands and Chairman of the SKA Science & Engineering Committee, Professor Michael Garrett, said he hoped ICRAR would play a leading role in the SKA-low pre-construction phase.
"It is essential that the knowledge and expertise built up via the Murchison Widefield Array finds its way back into the international SKA project", Professor Garrett stated. "SKA-low will address Nobel-prize winning science questions about the early Universe, and I'm convinced it will emerge as one of the dominant areas of astrophysical research over the next few decades. It's great to see ICRAR, and indeed the Australian community as a whole, getting behind these efforts and becoming so heavily involved."
Researchers at the meetings will discuss the next steps required as the SKA project heads towards its pre-construction phase. This phase will see finalisation of the telescope design and the development of technology to a point where the telescope is ready for production.