back to article Building the world's biggest telescope array - with machines that don't yet exist

Once completed, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the biggest radio astronomy telescope in the world. "Biggest", though, really is too mild a term for the sheer size of this project. The first phase, SKA1, will be broken up into two instruments, SKA1 MID and SKA1 LOW, based on their frequencies. SKA1 MID alone is made …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    Pretty impressive...

    ...just make sure they don't have a microwave oven close by.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: Pretty impressive...

      Microwaves: bah

      SKA astronomers will need to user a barbie or a braai

      Icon: before it gets down to hot charcoal

  2. TRT Silver badge

    I'm sure that by then...

    they'll have developed block transfer computation. Just... you know, be a sweetie and fit a safety net under the Lovell, OK?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Harry the Bastard

    tennis courts?

    any fule kno the correct measure of 33,000m2 is 1.5883 microwales

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Re: tennis courts?

      The BBC is using the "football pitch" as a unit of measurement.

      I assume they're referring to *Proper* football, as opposed to the assorted bastardised versions of Rugger favoured by the colonies.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: tennis courts?

        Silly BBC. Standard units of measurements must be standard (the clue is in the name) Association football pitches can vary in size from 4500-13000 square yards (no idea what that is in those silly french republican units), but the point is there is no way that the 'football pitch' can be used as a standard unit of area. Stick to the microWales! (Or possibly the square Snowdon - 1085 x 1085 square metres)

  5. WonkoTheSane

    Control centre announced the other day

    Jodrell Bank will be the central control for this array.

  6. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    Lets give the project three cheers




  7. Christoph

    "Writing software for something that doesn't exist. Uh, what?"

    Nothing new. The first ever program was written by Ada Lovelace for a machine that still doesn't exist.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      ... it's not new, but still very tricky thing to do!

      1. The First Dave

        Not at all, writing software for something that doesn't exist is trivial. The difficulty lies in de-bugging / unit-testing etc.

  8. marioaieie


    No, please! Clouds are not good for astronomy...

    I'll get my coat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Clouds are not good for astronomy"

      Well duh, I'm pretty sure they've thought about that! Why else would they be going with radio telescopes??

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NIce article

    More of this sort of thing please!

    1. bar Moustache

      Re: NIce article

      Up with this sort of thing!

      Careful now...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Considering the success Bitcoin had with fabricating parts specifically to solve the problem I wonder if this project wouldn't benefit from similar thinking. I'm sure some of what they are doing is going to require general purpose CPU's but I'd be prepared to bet that a lot of the early processing of the data is done with a few well known stable algorithms.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Even if they were able to use GPUs, which were a win for Bitcoin until they went to ASICs. Sad that a shady "currency" is getting custom hardware support and not real science...

  11. Ian Michael Gumby

    Don't worry. Be Happy!

    By the time this comes online... RRAM products will be hitting the streets.

    So you're looking at 8+ TB per small 2.5" SSD Card as a start, if not a net new design in terms of a memory bus.

    This should help to drive down the costs of SSDs and other tech. Also with RRAM, there's less heat and power.

    I would imagine the computer will look quite different in the next 5 years due to changes in disruptive technology.

    1. JohnMartin

      Re: Don't worry. Be Happy!

      While you're right that next gen NVM techs and the associated low latency NVMe over fabrics tech will change server architecture, none of if will be anywhere close to cheap enough to store the amount of data being talked about here. Even spinny rust "Cloud Drives" using HAMR and shingles which will be about 10x cheaper than even the densest forms of 3D NAND will look expensive in the face of this amount of data.

      If we care about keeping the raw data for long periods of time, then breaking it up into 100MB sized chunks and storing in on peoples personal machines in a kind of "SETI at home" might be a better option. There are already geographically dispersed global erasure coding techniques that would allow redundant copies of the data to be kept efficiently across a large globally distributed storage environment that would allow it to be self healing.

      With only ten million people world wide each contributing 2 - 5% of their own personal storage it wouldn't be hard to scrounge at least another 100 PetaBytes of so of effective data capacity which would scale nicely over time.

  12. The Dude

    Software development

    Un-invented hardware and no software for their telescopy space stuff, huh?

    May the Forth be with them.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The same Tim Cornwell who lead the AIPS++ astronomical software development, spent millions over quite a few years and never produced a system that could be useable?

    I shudder to think about it.

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