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Australia Space Science

Decision Time For SKA Telescope Bids 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-telescope-time dept.
angry tapir writes "An independent scientific committee will this week make a recommendation to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project's board of directors in London about whether the array's core should be based in Western Australia or South Africa. A further month of negotiations is likely before the countries are officially notified about whether they have won the $2.5 billion project. Once built, the SKA will be able to survey the sky 10,000 times faster than existing technology. Scientists hope the SKA will provide answers about how galaxies evolve, how the first black holes and stars were formed, and whether there is any other life in space. Cio.com.au has posted an interview with the head of Australia's bid for the project, Dr Brian Boyle."
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Decision Time For SKA Telescope Bids

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  • read this a few mins before reading /.

    http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/australia-in-battle-to-host-25b-telescope-20120216-1takw.html [theage.com.au]

    this should be high priority.

    we are bickering about a useless crap, but seriously, this one thin would be cool to have,

    off topic, but love this movie , The Dish, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0205873/ [imdb.com] , especially the US anthem scene, sorry guys if you haven't seen it, no offence meant, just funny for us backward Australian citizens

  • by SpaghettiWestern (2575627) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:07AM (#39057339)
    The Square Kilometre Array Telescope (SKA) will delve further into the Universe than ever before, produce more data about the cosmos than modern-day computers can handle, and shift the focus of radio astronomy from the 'dish' to silicon.

    In essence, what we are seeing is the evolution of telescopes away from the concrete and steel that forms the antennas and into the world of supercomputing, says Professor Brian Boyle, CSIRO's SKA director.

    "The supercomputer is as much a part of the telescope as is the antenna.
    "In the 1960s you built really big dishes to take all the data, now you put all your effort into the silicon brains behind it," Boyle says.

    An array telescope is composed of lots of different antennas connected to a supercomputer via a super-fast fibre optic network.
    "So in the SKA's case we're talking 3000 antennas over a minimum distance of 3000 kilometres.
    "All that data is transported from the SKA at speeds of 400 terabits per second across the continent — that's about ten times greater than global internet traffic today.
    "Then it's processed by a super computer capable of doing one million, million, million operations per second — about one hundred times faster than the world's fastest super computer today," says Boyle.

    Scientists hope that by delving deeper into space than ever before they will be able to investigate fundamental questions about the universe, such as the evolution of galaxies, dark energy and cosmic magnetism, and probe the earliest stars and black holes.

    Source & further Info:
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/02/14/3430265.htm [abc.net.au]
  • Isn't the main point for anyone astronomically and/or scientifically inclined
    that the thing will be built?

    • by GreenTech11 (1471589) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @05:19AM (#39057605)

      Yes and no.

      Just as important as it being built, is that there are sufficient protocols and resources in place to ensure that: a) It continues to operate for a long period of time and b) The information transmitted can be quickly and efficiently analysed and distributed.

      The South African bid consists of the telescope scattered across several countries, all of them far less politically stable than Australia and New Zealand, an issue which could potentially cause problems later. In addition, Australia and New Zealand are both well-industrialised, providing both a strong economic base to support the program, and also reducing the likelihood that 10 years from now there will be a massive centre of EM interference next to some of the dishes.

      While I'd prefer the South African bid to none at all, I think that the Aus/NZ bid is the better option. And I'm hoping the judges don't vote against it simply as a political manoeuvre. Having said that, I'm both West Australian and Not-An-Astronomer, so I am biased, and also not fully informed of any scientific advantages/disadvantages to the bids.

      • by Iron Sun (227218)

        A friend of mine who works with the Australian bid says that there is a lot of talk about the European partners indulging in a lot of colonial guilt apologetics and seeing a fair bit of posturing to be had from handing such a big futuristic project to Africa. China will also be horse trading for all they're worth. As with all political decisions, the logically best option may not be the most politically juicy one.

      • by Occams (2422082)
        There is a hidden cost to the country that hosts this beast. That is the need to maintain a radio frequency quiet zone across a huge area of the country. Unwanted radio noise will reduce the effectiveness of the SKA and will require more computing power. This quiet zone will inevitably deny services in the future to Australians who live in remote areas. There are very few places in the world where this would be tolerable, and I am not at all certain that Australia is one of them. If the full implication
    • by jemmyw (624065)

      There was an interview with an Auckland professor this morning (I live in Wellington NZ). One interesting aspect to placing it in AUS/NZ is using it to measure tectonic plate movements using stable quasars. Obviously we get a fair amount of movement here, I don't know about South Africa.

  • by maroberts (15852) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:19AM (#39057383) Homepage Journal

    Why is this thing not located near the equator, or alternatively perhaps with northern and southern hemisphere arrays?

    • by lawrencebillson (1136239) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @04:34AM (#39057443)
      The location in WA is pretty damn close to the tropic. The SKA guys have a pretty concise list of site requirements (See http://www.skatelescope.org/the-sites/ [skatelescope.org]) - officially they care about noise floor, ionosphere/troposphere, climate, comms, costs, long term prospects of the noise floor. If I were selecting the site I'd care more about a location being politically stable.
    • by sg_oneill (159032)

      The main thing outback australia has going for it, is its remoteness and clear weather. Put it out far enough, and the EM pollution will be tiny, and the weather in the outback is really quite dry and still.

      Its perfect for astronomy. Its probably the same in south africa too, they have fairly similar weather to us.

      • Quite. The site here in South Africa has pretty much nothing in it, not even animals live there, much less people.
        • Oi! That's not quite fair! I'm fairly certain it's got snakes and sheep in it! It is in the Karoo, after all...

          Mind you. doesn't sound all that different from Aussie Outback, does it?

    • by thephydes (727739)
      All of Western Australia is below the equator and a good chunk of it is below the Tropic of Capricorn (roughly 23 degrees south). The SKA is proposed for near Geraldton which is about 28 degrees south. Last time I looked the equator ran through Kenya (Nanyuki for example) and South Africa was actually to the south. The best view of our galaxy is from the Southern Hemisphere - the so called Milky way. Additionally if you want a radio-quiet place, the Southern Hemisphere is a no-brainer - Australia, South A
      • Well there is the Very Large Array in the US, which could perhaps be used as a baseline.
        One would also have thought that areas of Montana/Dakota or somewhere in Canada (Manitoba?) would provide a good area with low population density for the central core

        • by dkf (304284)

          Well there is the Very Large Array in the US, which could perhaps be used as a baseline.

          They also want a southern hemisphere telescope because there's lots to see in the southern sky that the VLA just can't spot.

    • by sjwt (161428)

      Because the majority of the universe is ''bellow'' us, ie to the south, by looking 'down' you will be able to study much more then by placing it at the equator or in the northern hemisphere.

  • South Africa may sooner or later glide off into a civil war.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's just FUD.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was born in SA, worked overseas for a few years and am now back in SA.

      While I understand why people think this, I've heard about how the blood is going to flow through the streets my whole life - literally. In typical South African style, we like to whine about how the place is going down hill, it is almost like we wish for it. Perhaps we are bored? In my life the country has gone through at least 2 major changes. Still no civil war.

      Our murder rate is higher than that in some civil wars. But that is not t

      • by Jeeeb (1141117)

        Also keep in mind that Australia has a growing racial/emigration problem. In Australia nowadays illegal immigrants get stuck into dodgy camps that even the old SA apartheid regime would have thought twice about doing. Now they won't dare. In Australia it is no problem. Can you honestly tell me that you are even 80% sure that these problems are not going to come to a head in Australia in the next 50 years?

        I think you mean immigration not emigration. There are far more people coming to Australia each year t

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oi! I resent that! W.A. has a long history of wanting to seceed from the barbarian East, so we demand to have the right to slide off into civil war, too!

      • by Occams (2422082)
        Don't forget the wonderful beach in WA. It has about 3000 miles of coastline, and another 3000 miles of red sand between the Indian Ocean and civilization.
  • I want me some Reggae Telescope!

"The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray." -- Robert G. Ingersoll

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