Friday, October 05, 2012

Looking into the birth of the structure of galaxies

Part of the Askap
Australia has launched a new radio telescope tasked with surveying outer space and probing the origins of stars and galaxies. The array is the first stage in the development of a huge, multinational astronomical project.

According to BBC:

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (Askap) in Western Australia's outback has 36 antennas with a diameter of 12m (40ft) each. 
The A$152m ($155m, £96m) telescope is expected to capture radio images, starting from Friday.
The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.

Linked radio wave receptors will be located in Australia and in Southern Africa -- around 3000 dishes, each 15 m in diameter, are currently planned. Combining the signals from the antennas in each region will create a telescope with a collecting area equivalent to a dish with an area of about one square kilometre.

Processing the vast quantities of data produced by the SKA will require very high performance central supercomputers capable of 100 petaflops per second processing power. This is about 50 times more powerful than the most powerful supercomputer in 2010 and equivalent to the processing power of about one hundred million PCs.

According to the project website:

The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. 
The Square Kilometre Array is a global science and engineering project led by the SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters in Manchester, UK. 
An array of dish receptors will extend into eight African countries from a central core region in the Karoo desert of South Africa. A further array of mid frequency aperture arrays will also be built in the Karoo. A smaller array of dish receptors and an array of low frequency aperture arrays will be located in the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. 
The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction is scheduled to start in 2016.

Concept for one site in the eventual array

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