Canadians working on supercomputer for telescope

Canadian researchers are helping build the world’s largest computer to go with the world’s most powerful telescope.

The telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is expected to generate one exabyte — one billion gigabytes — of raw data a day.

With today’s technology, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to store that kind of data.

But researchers at the Canadian Astronomical Data Centre (CADC) are working with Curtin University and the University of Western Australia to create a new computer to deal with all the information.

The Canadian researchers are on board because they’ve dealt with telescope computer systems before, including working with data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

But the scale of this project is unprecedented, said Andreas Wicenec, the head of computing for International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

“We’re not just facing challenges in storing all that data but processing it into something useful,” Wicenec said.

Construction on SKA is set to begin in 2016. Its location is yet to be determined, although Australia, New Zealand and some south African countries have put in bids to host the telescope.

“We’ll need to be strategic about where our research is directed,” Wicenec said. “Even powering a computer big enough to manage the huge task needs to be researched and developed.”

He said CADC was one of the world’s leading groups for dealing with large amounts of astronomy data, and its valuable experience — combined with ICRAR’s radio astronomy knowledge — would provide an accurate estimate for the SKA’s computing needs.

— Sun Media News Services