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Australia Networking Space Science

New Zealand Joins Aussie Bid For Vast Radio Telescope Array 60

schliz writes "A radio telescope in New Zealand has joined five in Australia to challenge Southern Africa to host the international Square Kilometer Array (SKA) in 2012. The newly connected telescope in Warkworth, New Zealand (PDF), is connected to an Australian data processing facility via a 1 Gbps network. Each telescope reportedly produces up to 1 Tb of data per hour of observation. IBM expects the whole of the SKA to produce an exabyte of data per day."
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New Zealand Joins Aussie Bid For Vast Radio Telescope Array

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  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Friday May 28, 2010 @02:30AM (#32372588) Journal

    I'd like a Beowulf cluster [itnews.com.au] of those ;)

    Already, the telescope network has been used to image the heart of a galaxy called Centaurus A, which is 14 million light-years away and contains a supermassive black hole.

    Observing the galaxy for ten hours, each of the six telescopes recorded up to 10 Tb of data. This was transmitted to Perth's Curtin University of Technology via KAREN and the 10 Gbps AARNET.

    At Curtin, the data was processed on a local 160-core Beowulf cluster comprising a 100 Tb spinning disk and supported by petabyte storage at the iVEC supercomputing centre.

    The cluster consolidated and processed the data into a final data set a "few" gigabytes in size, according to Curtin professor Steven Tingay.

  • Re:So, what? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frans Faase ( 648933 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:48AM (#32374172) Homepage

    For your information, the LOFAR system also processes data immediately. All the stations are connected with 10Gbit networks to the central processing system in Groningen.

    Each LOFAR antenna produces 0.8 Gbyte of data per second. When finallized, the system will consist of about 7000 antenna spread out over about 40 field most of which are in the Netherlands, but about ten of them will be abroad. I understand that each field will perform some preprocessing before the data is send to the central processing unit where it is correlated and further reduced before it being stored and made available for off-line processing. See here [lofar.org] for a detailed description.

  • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:31AM (#32375206) Homepage Journal

    1. The passing of the South Africa's Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act [ska.ac.za] in 2007 declares almost the whole of the Northern Cape province (an area about 1.5 times that of the UK) into an astronomy advantage area. Amongst other things it means that light pollution will be limited and that the whole area will eventually be turned into a radio quiet zone.

    The Australian desert is an empty, extremely radio quiet right now, and has also been declared as a no-building zone. In comparison, the million cell towers make South Africa is extremely noisy.

    2. Much of the technology used in South Africa's pilot program (MeerKAT [ska.ac.za]) will be directly useable in SKA. By comparison, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project has much less tech that will be useable in SKA without major redesign and modification.

    I'd be interested in hearing more about that. Why is the one more directly reuseable?

    3. Price. From the start keeping the price down was a very high priority goal for the SA bid. E.g. they developed a new process to manufacture the dishes that is much cheaper than conventional methods. Now, after the credit crunch where many scientific budgets are getting cut, this strategy is paying off.

    Disclaimer 1: I am a South African and therefore far from neutral
    Disclaimer 2: The last time I read extensively on this is more than six months ago, so if there were significant developments recently then I might not be aware of them


    4. Baselines: The NZ-AUS baseline is going to be extremely long.

    There is also a "5. Politics & political stability", which is a bit more complex and probably has some FUD.


  • Re:So, what? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:19AM (#32376542) Homepage Journal

    Well, that's partially true. The online/realtime processing doesn't store the data. We have the data coming in at about 150 Gbit/s into the BlueGene supercomputer (34 TFlop), which does initial realtime processing and writes resulting files at about 50 Gbit/s on a roughly 1 Petabyte intermediate storage system for offline processing. From there it gets initial processing/calibration and a factor of 16 to 64 reduction in size on the offline processing cluster (about 200 8core machines). Also some inspection of the data is done for quality assessment, and sky images are made. If the quality is good, the resulting data and images are moved to out 4+ Petabyte long term archive, where further processing can also be done to achieve publication ready results.
    On average we are expected to be producing about 20 TB/hour raw data, and about 700 GB/hour data that gets archived (life time of more than a week).

    As I speak we are 2 weeks away from the system being opened by the Dutch Queen, and we are operating on about half the above numbers with about 25 antenna fields online. By the end of 2010 we should be operating at full strength. Also, those numbers are from the top of my head, so I might be off a bit here and there.

    LOFAR is seen as a precursor to SKA, the first of a new generation of telescopes based much more on software and firmware and cheap off the shelve instead of expensive dishes and custom DSP hardware. After the various VLBI efforts (Including JIVE, which is housed in the same building as ASTRON and LOFAR), LOFAR now is the biggest telescope on Earth.
    http://www.astron.nl/dailyimage/main.php?date=20100421 [astron.nl]
    http://www.astron.nl/dailyimage/main.php?date=20100125 [astron.nl]

    There are some rather nice images starting to come out of the system, if you're a radioastronomer, but most are under embargo until the opening. I can show you this older image:
    http://www.astron.nl/dailyimage/main.php?date=20100208 [astron.nl]

    When mentioning SKA precursors, it's also noteworthy to mention that the 14 25meter dish WSRT array will be upgraded with focal plane arrays over the next two years, and the EMBRACE test bed has almost finished building it's first three stations.
    http://www.astron.nl/dailyimage/main.php?date=20070801 [astron.nl]
    http://www.astron.nl/dailyimage/main.php?date=20091012 [astron.nl]

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