Scientists create 'nervous system' of largest telescope

An international team led by scientists at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Pune has designed the “Telescope Manager” - a complex software to serve as the nervous system of the gigantic telescope.

Indian scientists have led an international group of researchers to create the “nervous system” of the world's biggest telescope – Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – that is expected to become functional by the middle of the next decade.

 The SKA will be the world's largest radio telescope that will allow astronomers to carry out transformational science to improve human understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

It's not a single telescope, but a collection of several thousand specially designed dishes spread over long distances at two different sites in South Africa and Australia. Taken together, the array will function like a giant telescope.

An international team led by scientists at the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Pune has designed the “Telescope Manager” - a complex software to serve as the nervous system of the gigantic telescope.

“It gives a complete end-to-end solution. Once an input is received (scientific query for a particular observation), the telescope manager on its own configures what type of observation is required, how many dishes would do the job and how long the run would continue. It will give users (scientists) the end product as a set of images for study,” NCRA director Yashwant Gupta told DH.

Almost 50% of members of the team are from NCRA. Another key Indian partner was TCS Research and Innovation. Other members of the global consortium came from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Council in Australia, National Research Council of Canada, National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, Portugal’s Instituto de Telecomunicações, School of Sciences of Porto University, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory and UK’s Astronomy Technology Centre.

India is one of the early members of a global consortium of 12 nations, which will set up the SKA. Other members are Australia, Canada, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. France became a member of the SKA consortium only a fortnight ago.

The first phase of the SKA is scheduled to be completed by 2024-25 by which the consortium hopes to install 200-300 dishes in South Africa and few hundreds in Australia. This is estimated to cost nearly $ 700 million Euro (about Rs 5,500 crore).

“We hope to receive 6-10% of the first phase budget from the government, for which discussions are on with the Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology,” Gupta said.

The raw data flow in the SKA would be more than current internet traffic. When fully ready, the annual data flow at the SKA would be in the order of few lakh petabytes. For comparison, India's biggest radio telescope GMRT handles 200-300 petabytes of data each year.

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Scientists create 'nervous system' of largest telescope

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