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Design completed for the 'brain' of the world's largest radio telescope

An international group of scientists led by the UK has finished designing the computing ‘brain’ of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope.

Once operational, the SKA will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence.

The SKA’s Science Data Processor (SDP) consortium, led by the University of Cambridge, has designed the elements that will together form the ‘brain’ of the SKA. SDP itself will be composed of two supercomputers, one located in Cape Town, South Africa and one in Perth, Australia, and its total compute power will be 25% faster than the current fastest supercomputer in the world.

“SDP is where data becomes information,” said Rosie Bolton, Data Centre Scientist for the SKA Organisation. “This is where we start making sense of the data and produce detailed astronomical images of the sky.”

To do this, SDP will need to ingest the data and move it through data reduction pipelines at staggering speeds, to then form data packages that will be copied and distributed to a global network of regional centres where it will be accessed by scientists around the world.

Maurizio Miccolis, SDP’s Project Manager for the SKA Organisation, said: “In total, up to 600 petabytes of data will be distributed around the world every year from SDP –enough to fill more than a million average laptops.”

In total, close to 40 institutions in 11 countries took part in the design of the SDP.

The UK government, through STFC, has committed £100m to the construction of SKA and for the global SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, as its share as a core member of the project.

Read more on the University of Cambridge website.


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