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Our understanding of the very high energy (VHE) universe has progressed rapidly during the last several years as a result of new instruments and exciting discoveries. In particular, ground-based telescopes, such as VERITAS in southern Arizona, and the space-based Fermi telescope have discovered many astrophysical sources of VHE gamma rays, including pulsars, supernova remnants, binary star systems, blazars and radio galaxies. The key science topics addressed by these discoveries include understanding cosmic particle acceleration in our Galaxy, probing extreme environments close to neutron stars and black holes, and physics frontiers, such as the search for WIMP dark matter and axion-like particles.
The progress in the field motivates a follow-up instrument that can greatly expand the scientific reach of the ground-based techniques. A worldwide consortium of scientists has formed to development the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). CTA is envisioned to consist of two large arrays of atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes, in both the southern and northern hemispheres. Compared to existing instruments, CTA will have susbtantially better angular resolution, will cover a much wider energy range, and will have up to an order of magnitude better sensitivity. Planning for CTA is well underway and in initial construction is expected to start in 2018.
This talk will review the status and scientitic outlook for the field of VHE astrophysics, provide an overview of the capabilities and technical design of CTA, and summarize the current status of the project.