U Manchester To Crunch SKA Data

The University of Manchester will be developing new technologies to help crunch data as part of the SKA project (not the "ska" of the rude boy variety, but the less groove-oriented "SKA" of the radio telescope variety).

SKA (for "Square Kilometre Array") is positioned to become the largest radio telescope in history, about 100 times the sensitivity of current instruments, and, according to the University of Manchester, some 100,000 times the power of the Lovell radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. The project comprises astronomers, astrophysicists, and engineers from 18 countries. It's slated to be fully operational by 2020, with the first phase of construction planned to begin in 2011 either in Australia or South Africa.

The University of Manchester, for its part, is leading the European design study for SKA (SKADS) and working on the technology for an aperture array, "which will be composed of tens of thousands of small [antennas] fixed to the ground," the university reported in a statement released last week. "The completed SKA will consist of around 250 aperture arrays." The work will be handled by the university's schools of Physics and Astronomy and Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

The proposed all-digital system will process tandem data to be received from about 128,000 receivers. In order to help tackle this challenge, the university signed a joint study agreement with IBM, whose researchers from its Thomas J. Watson Research Center will work with U Manchester to design the required processing systems.

The university received about $7 million to lead the effort in collaboration with Oxford and Cambridge universities.

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