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MCCT SKADS Mixed Workshop Nançay

MCCT SKADS Mixed Workshop

Towards third generation calibration in radio astronomy

27 September – 10 October, Nançay (France)

The MCCT SKADS Mixed Workshop, entitled “Towards third generation calibration in radio astronomy” was hosted by the Observatoire de Paris at the Nançay radio astronomy Station, France, from Sunday 27 September to Saturday 10 October 2009.

The school was fully sponsored by the Marie Curie MCCT-SKADS programme, within the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Commission.

participants at the Nancay MCCT Workshop, Sept/Oct 2009

Presentations and Documents

workshop presentations on the MeqTree wiki

Purpose and format of the school:

The last SKADS MCCT workshop will be a bit special. Its explicit aim is to identify, train and connect a new breed of “user-developers”, who are willing and able to lead the way towards “3rd generation calibration” in radio astronomy. The latter differs from traditional calibration in its emphasis on direction-dependent instrumental effects like the ionosphere and individual station beams. It is firmly based on the Measurement Equation (M.E.), the full-polarization matrix formalism that describes a generic radio telescope. Calibration of the new giant radio telescopes would be unthinkable without it.

The chosen tool is the MeqTree software package, which has been explicitly designed to implement an arbitrary M.E., and to solve for arbitrary subsets of its parameters. It also has an extremely short turn-around time, and unprecedented visualization, for rapid experimentation with new ideas.

A very important goal of this workshop is to continue working together afterwards. The idea is that we form the seeding nucleus of a Creative Commons, connected by the internet, by a common language, and by common tools. This is made possible by the unusual modularity of MeqTree, which allows widely separated people to contribute at the level of processing scripts (Python) and specific nodes (C++). These may then be shared, and cannibalized. Another important communication tool is the “PURR log”, which allows easy exchange of detailed results in the form of images, plots and text.

The lecturers for this workshop will also be a bit special, in the sense that they are expected to stay for the entire two weeks, and work along with the students, both during the workshop, and as part of the Creative Commons. This experience will uniquely qualify them for supervising the PhD students that will use the new telescopes.

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Requirements for participation, EC eligibility rules, and costs:

The selection for participation in the Workshop will be made on the basis of performance in a website-based training/competition over the summer (see SKADS Set of Standard Challenges). We are looking primarily for people who have demonstrated “productivity in writing software”, with emphasis on Python and C++. Prior knowledge of radio astronomical data reduction is secondary.

Everyone who applies before June 30th will receive instructions for the web-based training/competition, which opens on July 15th.

Although everybody can pre-register and participate in the preparatory web-based training/competition, participation in the Workshop and eligibility for EC funding to attend the Workshop are subject to further restrictions.

In order to qualify for attending the Workshop, candidate participants must have finished their undergraduate studies before the start of the Workshop — this means that they must have at least a BA or BSc degree. A potential attendee cannot register for the Workshop before having finished her/his undergraduate studies, even if she/he has already started some post-graduate studies such as master courses. This is a strict rule.

Both the participation fee and the full board lodging costs will be covered by the MCCT-SKADS programme for selected, eligible participants with less than 10 yr of experience in research. In this group, all researchers are eligible for funding regardless of their nationality or place of work. These participants will also receive a contribution in their travel expenses, which should be enough to fully cover e.g low-cost airline tickets and/or other means of public transport to/from the Workshop.

Researchers with more than 10 years of experience are also eligible for funding provided that they are nationals of EU member and associated states, but currently working outside these countries.

Participants are expected to stay at the Nançay radio astronomy Station for the full length of the school, arriving on Sunday 27 September 2009 and departing on Saturday 10 October. There is a participation fee of 150€ (taxes included), and a full board lodging cost from 27 September till 10 October of about 400 € (TBC; taxes included) has been arranged. The working language of the Workshop will be English.

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The venue of the School will be the Nançay radio astronomy Station (http:// of the Observatoire de Paris, located 200 km south of Paris, in the middle of the Sologne forests. Accommodation for all participants will be provided on the site of the Station.


In order to be considered for participation, please pre-register using the School’s web site form. The deadline for filling out the pre-registration is 30 June. Everyone who applies before June 30th will receive instructions for the web-based training/competition, which opens on July 15th. Selection of workshop participants will be made on September 1st.

When you fill out the pre-registration form, you must also have a presentation letter signed by the Director of your Institute sent to the SOC by e-mail:

c/o MCCT-SKADS Workshop SOC
info @ skads-eu.orgC.U.James

This letter should expand on the importance of attending this Workshop for the formation of the student.


  • Jan Noordam (ASTRON, Chair)
  • Steve Rawlings (Oxford University)
  • Anna Scaife (Cambridge University)
  • Oleg Smirnov (ASTRON)
  • Wim van Driel (Observatoire de Paris)


  • Christophe Rozière
  • Steve Torchinsky
  • Wim van Driel
last update 2009 October 28, 10:42 by SKADS Management Team