Mid-Frequency Aperture Array

What do we mean when we refer to Mid-Frequency Aperture Array (MFAA) in the SKA design?


The “Mid-Frequency Aperture Array” (MFAA) element of the SKA, part of the SKA Advanced Instrumentation Programme, includes the activities necessary for the development of a set of antennas, on board amplifiers and local processing required for the Aperture Array telescope of the SKA. MFAA includes the development of local station signal processing and hardware required to combine the antennas and the transport of antenna data to the station processing.

The fully sampled field-of-view, of the order of 100 square degrees, makes the SKA Mid-Frequency Aperture Array effectively a 10-gigapixel ultra wide field spectroscopic camera“, says Steve Torchinsky, member of the MFAA Consortium and astronomer at the Station de Radioastronomie de Nançay, France.


Artist’s impression of the Mid-Frequency Aperture Array telescope when deployed on the African site (C) SKA Organisation

More about the MFAA
The overriding objectives of the MFAA Consortium are to prove the technological maturity of the Mid-Frequency Aperture Array technology, and to evaluate different concepts of front-end technology that can serve to assist in the preliminary design of the MFAA. When a concept is selected, it will then taken further in Stage 2 towards the preliminary design.

The two EMBRACE (Electronic Multibeam Radio Astronomy Concept ) stations built as part of the SKA Design Study project, located near the Westerbork in the Netherlands and at Nançay Observatory in France, are platforms that will function as test-bed for new developments and further validation of the key-technologies.





The MFAA Science
The SKA Mid frequency aperture array is scheduled to be deployed in the second phase of the construction of the SKA. It will cover a wide-range of radio frequencies from 400 MHz upwards. One of the key science goals for these telescopes will be their planned mission to measure the effects of dark energy on the Universe, as well as doing high speed surveys for pulsars and other radio transient events. This requires very high sensitivities, with the ability to detect very small variations in the observed signal.

EMBRACE a study which will benefit the SKA

EMBRACE Composition with a zoom-in on the antennas and two observations performed with the dual beam system

The MFAA Consortium
By using experienced groups, many of whom have worked together closely on previous SKA programmes, a proven technological base exists and appropriate industrial developments can be investigated, one with experience in costing and management of radio telescope projects, and drawing on vast experience gained from precursor projects such as THEA (Thousand Element Array), EMBRACE and ORA.

The MFAA Consortium itself is a collection of institutes with considerable experience in the field of Mid-Frequencies aperture array research and development. The key players in the EMBRACE work package of the SKA Design Study, an EU-FP6 project which concentrated on development of Aperture Arrays led by ASTRON (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy), are part of this consortium.

The MFAA consortium is led by Jan Geralt Bij de Vaate of ASTRON in the Netherlands.

Institutions involved in the MFAA consortium include:

Contact information of people involved at each institution can be provided by the consortium lead Jan Geralt Bij de Vaate

Click on the map to find out more about the institutions involved in the MFAA consortium

SKA Global Consortia