AtLAST and first instances of SKAO Sensitivity Calculators released
20 Dec 2023



UK ATC develops new software tools for astronomers.




​Astronomers interested in using the SKAO (Square Kilometre Array Observatory) or AtLAST (the Atacama Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope) now have access to new software to aid future research, their sensitivity calculators. 

An artist's impression of the future SKA-Mid site in South Africa. Sensitivity calculators are used by astronomers to plan observations by calculating how long it would take the observatory to achieve the sensitivity required for their science goals. 

These sensitivity calculators have been developed to take into account our best estimates of the telescope performance along with models for the properties of the atmosphere on the sites where each telescope will be based: The Atacama desert in Chile for AtLAST; Southern Africa and Western Australia for SKAO. 

The UK ATC is a founding member of the AtLAST consortium. Still in the concept stage, AtLAST is a proposed next-generation 50-metre class single-dish astronomical observatory based in Northern Chile. A collaborative project designed to operate within the sub-millimetre and millimetre wavelength range, it is expected to be powered by sustainable, renewable energy. 

The AtLAST Sensitivity Calculator was developed through the combined effort of scientists and engineers at the UK ATC, with inputs from scientists throughout the consortium. The software was written in Python and is already being used by scientific working groups. The web client version has now been incorporated into the AtLAST website. ​

Construction of the SKAO began in 2021 and once completed will consist of 197 dishes for SKA-MID and more than 130,000 low-frequency antennas for SKA-LOW. A collaboration between over 20 countries, the UK ATC is playing a key role in developing the software that leads from scientific idea through proposal handling, project scheduling and observation execution.

Development of the SKAO sensitivity calculator was coordinated by the Department of Science Operations based at SKAO GHQ at Jodrell Bank, with the majority of the code written and tested by software developers based at the UK ATC. It allows users to estimate performance for both continuum and spectral-line observations, with a pulsar-search mode under active development. 

These public resources are now open for anyone to use so that they can see what new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs they could accomplish using AtLAST or SKAO.

Access the AtLAST Sensitivity Calculator. 

Access the SKAO Sensitivity Calculator.