Groundbreaking SKA tech sought

The technology required to manage the SKA’s data is attracting big international names such as IBM and Astron.

Square Kilometre Arrays (SKA) in the Karoo. Picture: Alex Eliseev/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The search is on for new technology that will allow scientists to process the massive amount of information that will be gathered by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA will be the world's most powerful radio telescope and will be managed by a consortium of countries. The telescope will mostly be built in South Africa.

A four-year partnership has been struck with IBM and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron), to develop the computer systems that are required.

These will include complex algorithms to process the data and allow scientists to study it.

The SKA's Jasper Horrell said the computers and systems will also have to be able to survive desert conditions.

"If we tried to build the SKA within a day, it wouldn't be possible because the computing technology and algorithms that are needed haven't been developed yet."

According to the Astron website, the aperture arrays and dishes of the SKA will produce massive amounts of data, but the power to process all of it does not exist yet.

When the SKA is completed, it will collect "megadata" from deep space containing information dating back to the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago.