amount of computer data generated by the entire world in a whole year
will need to be stored in a single day for the world’s most powerful
telescope—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)—and the International Centre
for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is gearing up to meet that
scientists say the $2 billion SKA will generate one exabyte of data—a
billion terabytes (or one quintillion bytes)—every day while it searches
the sky with the power to detect airport radars in other galaxies 50
light years away.
joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western
Australia—has signed an agreement with DataDirect Networks to develop
the extraordinary new data storage capability.
Director Peter Quinn said preparatory work for the SKA—for which
Australia/New Zealand and Southern Africa are bidding—was “bringing
together some of the world’s leading minds to figure out how to solve
the data deluge”.
Andreas Wicenec, ICRAR’s head of computing, said DataDirect Networks
were world leaders in the type of high-performance computing data
storage required for a new era of advanced radio astronomy.
Networks’ experience would flow into storage for the SKA through work
on the Australian precursor radio telescopes, the Murchison Widefield
Array (MWA)—due for completion at the end of this year—and the
Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) which would be ready at the end of
DataDirect Networks’ expertise in providing ultra high-speed access to
large amounts of data with our experience in how astronomers need to
access their material gives us the opportunity to develop the best
solution,” he said.
of the agreement followed last week’s installation at UWA of a new
Fornax supercomputer—10,000 times faster than an average office desktop
computer—to help drive ICRAR’s powerful new radio telescopes.
is also preparing to develop a low-frequency component of the
SKA—dubbed “SKA-low”—which, unlike the SKA’s high-frequency collecting
“dish” antenna array, consists of new electronic antennas with no moving
Peter Hall, ICRAR Deputy Director responsible for engineering, said
telescopes of SKA-low’s design were a relatively recent development in
has just signed an agreement with scientists from organisations in
Europe, India and the UK to form a collaboration for the development of
SKA-low, which would form a significant part of the SKA project.
benefit of our role in this collaboration is more opportunity for
Australian industry to be involved in the SKA, regardless of where it is
sited,” Professor Hall said.
said ICRAR was working closely with the Australasian SKA Industry
Consortium to ensure Australian enterprises had maximum opportunities to
tender for construction work.
announcement on Australia’s bid for the SKA—a continent-wide
Australasian project with radio telescope sites that that extend to New
Zealand—is expected to be made by the international SKA Board in London