- Telescope is 10,000 times faster than any radio telescope today
- Huge array of dishes connected by optical fibres
- £1.3 billion machine will come to life in 2016
The £1.3 billion Square Kilometer Array is one of the most ambitious science projects ever undertaken – and the biggest telescope every built.
It will consist of dishes spread over a square kilometer of land in either South Africa or New Zealand – and will scan the sky 10,000 times faster than any existing telescope.
Signals received by the SKA will be transferred to a central high performance supercomputer by optical fibres. The rate at which the vast quantities of data will be transferred will far exceed the data rates of current internet traffic – but IBM is already designing machines to digest it.
The amount of data captured by the dishes is near-impossible to even imagine – enough to fill 15 million of the largest-capacity iPods every day.
Currently, most astronomy projects are managed ‘manually’ – ie by astronomers using comptuers, but ‘picking’ which data to home in on. The SKA will generate so much data this will be impossible.
But IBM has already prototyped software that can ‘digest’ it — and says that the technology could allow companies to oversee telecommunications systems and transport networks more effectively than they do today.
Working with Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, a radio astronomer from Victoria University in Wellington, IBM constructed the Information Intensive Framework (IIF) prototype to automate key elements of the work currently undertaken manually by scientists.
‘The Information Intensive Framework prototype tested several new concepts and is IBM’s first attempt to tackle the data intensive challenge faced by astronomy,’ said Dougal Watt, Chief Technology Officer, IBM New Zealand, and Chair of NZ SKA Industry Consortium’.
‘While developed with SKA in mind, the results are also applicable to other organisations faced with a ‘data deluge’. These range from individual manufacturing plants and telecommunications companies to whole transport networks and healthcare systems.’
Dr Johnston-Hollitt said: ‘Undertaking research on exa-scale datasets will force radio astronomers into a new, as yet, unexplored habit of automated processing, imaging and analysis.
‘We will need new solutions to fully realize the vast scientific potential.’
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: They must be worried about something ‘out there’ to even attempt this sort of thing. But remember, it’s for ‘science’ and the good of the public? As long as the ‘elite’s have their underground city shelters, who’s worried? Not me!!)
“Keep your nose to the ground and your eyes to the sky.”