Written by: Jürgen Knödlseder, Chair, CTA Consortium
As the on-going Covid-19 pandemic prevents the organisation of in-person meetings, the CTA Consortium meeting was again organised as an online meeting. Similar to the last meeting, the event was organised over two weeks, from 12 to 23 October, with parallel sessions scheduled over the first week and until 19 October, plenary sessions scheduled from 20 to 22 October, and a meeting of the Consortium Board on 23 October. In total, 460 Consortium members registered for the online meeting.
The meeting sessions were organised jointly between the CTA Consortium and the CTA Observatory for the benefit of CTA. Specifically, CTAO organised dedicated parallel sessions on Outreach, Science Tools software, the Science Data Challenge, and satellite constellations as well as plenary sessions on Project Science and Project Activities. The CTA Consortium focused in the parallel and plenary sessions on Consortium Working Groups activities.
Consortium publications are still a major focus of the Science Working Groups. Two publications were submitted since the last Consortium meeting, one on the sensitivity of CTA for probing cosmology and fundamental physics with gamma-ray propagation and a second on estimates of the CTA sensitivity to a dark matter signal from the Galactic Centre. Both papers are rigorous and comprehensive pieces of work, highlighting the enormous science potential of CTA. Many more Consortium publications are in the makings, some in a pretty advanced state.
During the meeting, the creation of a joint CTAC-CTAO task force for the multi-wavelength and multi-messenger coordination was announced. Multi-wavelength and multi-messenger aspects are crucial for reaching the CTA science goals, and some of those will directly impact the design and the operations of the Observatory. This includes establishing contacts with the relevant science communities and networks, defining operations requirements and assuring the embedding of CTA in the multi-wavelength and multi-messenger environment.
An increasingly tight collaboration has also been reported between the Analysis and Simulations Working Group, the CTAO computing department and the CTA Project Scientist. Topics that are addressed by this collaboration include for example the definition of the Instrument Response Functions or the provision of reference data sets and data from prototypes that are needed for software testing. Furthermore, the Analysis and Simulations Working Group also presented first results of the “Prod5” Monte Carlo simulations during the meeting.
Federico Ferrini, the CTAO Managing Director, reported during the meeting on the current challenge of matching the construction needs of CTA with the available resources. Finding a match is at the focus on the current CTAO activities, and a close collaboration between CTAO and CTAC will be more important than ever to respond to this challenge.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the CTA project, important progress was nevertheless reported during the meeting. The LST-1 Critical Design Review and the ACADA Preliminary Design Review were declared as “PASSED”, the SST Engineering Review was organised and held, and the NectarCAM Critical Design Review is under preparation. In addition, the Hosting Agreement for the SDMC in Zeuthen was signed, and a cooperation agreement with CERN that will give access to CERN resources and services is under preparation. Preparation of the array sites in the North and the South is continuing, including the conceptual design of the Operations building and a site survey in the North, and the construction planning in the South.
The telescope teams have also reported good progress. The LST-1 commissioning proceeds well despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with as recent highlights the detection of pulsations from the Crab pulsar and the detection of the blazars Mrk 421 and Mrk 501. The MST and SST Consortia are getting organised, formalising multi-lateral agreements between the contributing institutes that will deliver complete telescopes and camera systems to CTA.
During its meeting, the Consortium Board discussed a variety of topics, including the Rules of Procedure of the Membership Committee, the support of the Schwarschild Couder Telescope (SCT) project and the signature of a Diversity Charter. Furthermore, the Consortium Board also approved the nomination of Soebur Razzaque as new Co-Chair of the Speaker’s and Publication Office (SAPO) and of four new SAPO members, starting all their mandates on 1 January 2021. Due to the uncertain situation related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Consortium Board also decided to organise the next Consortium meeting in the 1st semester of 2021 as an online meeting.