Telescope network to crunch an exabyte of data a day

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Telescope network to crunch an exabyte of data a day

SKA-Jr will collect more data in six hours than all radio astronomy combined.

WA's International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) today announced it will work with IBM to develop a data system capable of processing and storing an exabyte of data per day (1,000 million GB) in the lead up to build of the world's biggest radio telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA, which has been described as one of the most ambitious international science projects ever devised, will increase the discovery potential of the world's existing telescopes 10,000 times.

However, before the SKA is built, a 'miniature' version of the radio telescope, called the Australian SKA pathfinder (ASKAP), will be constructed at the CSIRO's Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Boolardy in the West Australian Desert.

Australia's Academic Research Network (AARNet) has signed on to lay 350 kilometres of fibre optic cable from Geraldton, WA to Boolardy.

Construction of ASKAP, which will be made up of 36 dishes compared to 4,000 dishes planned for its big brother the SKA, will begin before the end of the year.

When completed, the ASKAP will temporarily take the crown as the worlds best radio survey telescope, according to Professor Peter Quinn, Australia's representative on the international SKA Science and Engineering Committee.

"Even though it has only one percent of the collecting area [of the SKA], the design of this particular array will probably make it the worlds best radio survey telescope and it will be based in Western Australia.

"The [ASKAP] in about six hours of operation will generate more data than has ever been collected by radio astronomy. Just in the first day it will have done as well as everyone else has done to date," Professor Quinn told iTnews.

According to the Professor, ASKAP is a "unique scientific facility" in its own right but it will also be used to showcase the Australian bid and "prove we have probably the best site in the world for radio astronomy".

Professor Quinn said he sees ASKAP as a training ground for the SKA.

The final location of the SKA will either be Western Australia or South Africa.

The first dish will be on the ASKAP site before Christmas and will be fully operational by the end of 2012.

Australia's chances of winning the SKA bid were given a boost in June when ICRAR, was given the nod to lead the project to design the science data system of the project.

Professor Quinn said "the ICT parts of the project are extremely interesting from a technological and industry point of view.

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