Tag Archives: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

radio telescope

Introducing the world’s largest radio telescope

Featured image: A computer generated image of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope dish antennas in South Africa. Credit: SKA Project Office.

What is dark matter? What did the universe look like when the first galaxies formed? Is there other life out there? These are just some of the mysteries that the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will aim to solve.

Covering an area equivalent to around one million square metres, or one square kilometre, SKA will comprise of hundreds of thousands of radio antennas in the Karoo desert, South Africa and the Murchison region, Western Australia.

The multi-billion dollar array will be 10 times more sensitive and significantly faster at surveying galaxies than any current radio telescope.

The massive flow of data from the telescope will be processed by supercomputing facilities that have one trillion times the computing power of those that landed men on the Moon.

Phase 1 of SKA’s construction will commence in 2018. The construction will be a collaboration of 500 engineers from 20 different countries around the world.

– Gemma Conroy

cloud collaboration

Cloud collaboration

Featured image above: the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) by SKA Organisation

Cloud services – internet resources available on demand – have created a powerful computing environment, with big customers like the US Government and NASA driving developments in data and processing.

When building the infrastructure to support the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), soon to be the world’s biggest radio telescope, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) benefitted from some heavyweight cloud computing experience.

ICRAR’s executive director, Professor Peter Quinn, says the centre approached cloud computing services company Amazon Web Services (AWS) to assess whether it could process the data from the SKA.

When operational in 2024, the SKA will generate data rates in excess of the entire world’s internet traffic.

Cloud collaboration
An artist’s impression of the Square Kilometre Array’s antennas in Australia. © SKA Organisation

ICRAR used an international consortium of astronomers to conduct a survey with the Janksy-VLA telescope, employing AWS to process the data, and they are now trying to determine how the services will work with a larger system.

Head of ICRAR’s Data Intensive Astronomy team, Professor Andreas Wicenec, says there are many options from AWS.

“Things are changing quickly – if you do something today, it might be different next week.”

Quinn says cloud systems assist international collaboration by providing all researchers with access to the same data and software. They’re also cost-effective, offering on-demand computing resources where researchers pay for what they use.

– Laura Boness

www.icrar.org