The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a next-generation radio interferometer. The mid-frequency array, SKA1-MID, will be hosted in South Africa and consist of around 200 individual antennas separated by up to 150 km. Together these will produce observations that are up to five times more sensitive and four times more detailed than those currently possible with the Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA).
These capabilities mean that the SKA will open the door to unprecedented observations of the molecular content of planet-forming discs. At these operating frequencies (10’s of GHz) many transitions of complex molecules exist, and are unhindered by the line confusion and continuum opacity that plagues (sub-)millimetre observations.
Using a model of complex organic molecules (COMs) in one of the best studied protoplanetary discs, TW Hya, I made predictions for the observability of these species across SKA Band 5 (5-15 GHz) along with the proposed Band 6 (15-25 or 15-50 GHz). Our simulated spectra (Figure 1) show that the extension of Band 6 to 50 GHz will be essential in allowing us to characterise how COMs form and evolve across the star and planet formation process. The full white paper will be available shortly.