BAWG 2023

The 9th Annual BRICS Astronomy Working Group (BAWG) Meeting

The 9th Annual BRICS Astronomy Working Group (BAWG) Workshop took place at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, hosted by the Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy (IDIA). The theme for this significant event, held on 16 – 19 October 2023, was “Survey Science and Big Data.” Supported by the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the workshop brought together esteemed representatives from the governments and scientific institutions of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, including astronomers and students from these nations.

The event commenced with a reception dinner, during which participants were treated to the enchanting sounds of the iThemba Youth Choir. Hailing from Khayelitsha, a township in the City of Cape Town, this group of individuals brimming with talent and heartfelt passion delivered captivating musical and dance performances, offering a splendid showcase of the richness, diversity, and vibrancy of African culture and its people.

During the BAWG meeting, delegates actively engaged in discussions covering operational and strategic aspects of the consortium. Key topics included:

  • Data-intensive research projects and programs
  • Software and systems approaches to big data challenges in astronomy, with particular relevance to the future SKA and Rubin Observatory 
  • National strategies or plans for data-intensive astronomy
  • Time domain astronomy particularly in relevance to big data
  • Data-driven outreach, education and development

Post-workshop, a two-day hackathon drew participants from BRICS countries, providing a platform for collaborative projects.

The third day of the workshop also featured a site visit to astronomical facilities hosted by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). The itinerary included a visit to the MeerKAT telescope, located in the Meerkat National Park, a critical precursor to the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope. The exploration continued at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland, where delegates received a tour of the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), alongside other notable telescopes such as the MeerLICHT and Lesedi.

On the final day, the BAWG business meeting saw high-level representatives deliberating on strategic and operational matters. Resolutions were drafted, outlining the key focus areas for the working group in the coming year. This coincided with the conclusion of the BAWG hackathon, featuring a prize-giving ceremony where teams presented their projects and were recognised for their outstanding participation and contributions.

The meeting proved to be a resounding success, providing participants with the chance to actively engage, network, collaborate, and discuss future strategies for advancing the flagship project, BRICS Intelligent Telescope and Data Network (BITDN), and the broader BRICS Astronomy consortium. The upcoming meeting in Russia is anticipated to be more extensive and even more impactful.