The Netherlands and South Africa partner to tackle the challenge with the immense amount of data the SKA telescope will generate

Figure 1 – The South African MeerKAT radio telescope, currently being built some 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.

The Netherlands and South Africa have set up a data science partnership to establish national and regional data centres in order to tackle one of the most significant challenges presented by the SKA telescope: how to manage, process, and make accessible the immense amount of data the telescope will generate.

THE HAGUE, 16-Dec-2016 — /EuropaWire/ — The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is a global effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope. It will eventually have a collecting area of over a square kilometre, to be built in South Africa and Australia. The SKA will be used to conduct transformational science, addressing questions on how the first stars and galaxies formed just after the big bang, what the nature of dark energy could be and whether we are alone in the universe.

The vast collection area of the SKA will produce staggering amounts of data, requiring key technological innovations in a number of areas such as big data and high-performance computing.  The Netherlands and South Africa have set up a data science partnership between key institutions from both countries to address the question of how to deal with these large volumes of data. NWO, ASTRON and IBM have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SKA South Africa and the University of Cape Town to collaborate on a ground-breaking research project entitled Precursor Regional Science Data Centres for the SKA (SKA-RSDC).

The MoU provides the vehicle for South African and Dutch partners to collaborate on policies, specifications, test-cases, proofs-of-concept and best-practices that will enable researchers to develop models for the efficient processing and analysis of the large quantity of data, based on the SKA pathfinders LOFAR (Low Frequency Array, NL) and MeerKAT (SA). These models will be an essential step in developing the necessary expertise for the SKA Regional Data Centres.

The data centres will provide astronomers around the world with access to the large-scale data infrastructures and associated high-performance computing needed to make sense of the data.

The techniques developed can, in turn, then be applied in other fields such as big data analytics, high-performance computing, green computing, and visualisation analytics.

Watch the video below for more information on the SKA project. This trailer highlights the scale and ambition of the SKA project, the big questions it aims to answer, and the sheer complexity of the entire undertaking. Last week, the trailer won a European Excellence Award, a distinction that honours outstanding achievements in communication and PR.

Source: NWO

Press officers NWO

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