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The Skynet Comes Alive


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SKA-related 'citizen science' project seeks participants

Emma Trkulja (Computerworld)19 September, 2011 12:52

TheSkyNet, a community computing project, has gone online, with people encouraged to contribute spare CPU cycles to help radio astronomers process data.

Sponsored by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the Curtin University and the WA government’s Department of Commerce, the project will use thousands of PCs to form a distributed computing engine to scan data from telescopes and search for sources of radiation at radio wavelengths that could be coming from stars, galaxies and other objects throughout the universe.

ICRAR director, professor Peter Quinn, said that theSkyNet project will raise awareness of the Square Kilometer Array]] (SKA) radio telescope project and complement the data processing of supercomputing facilities.

“TheSkyNet aims to complement the work already being done by creating a citizen science computing resource that astronomers can tap into and process data in ways and for purposes that otherwise might not be possible,” Professor Quinn said.

ICRAR’s Outreach and Education Manager, Pete Wheeler, recently told Computerworld Australia that the project will aid in the data processing of the forthcoming Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope.

“We will be running data sets on [skyNet] ... so the researchers, as they ramp up to deal with bigger and bigger cubes of data, can overcome some of the challenges they need in order to start processing things like ASKAP [Australian Kilometre Array Pathfinder] data in the future,” he said.

The SKA will be the world’s largest telescope when it is complete and it will cost around $2.5 billion dollars, which will be shared between institutions in 20 countries (including Australia, New Zealand, and countries in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia).

The SKA will have up to 50 times the sensitivity and 10,000 times the survey speed of current radio telescopes.

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