A telescope is under development that will be able to detect extraterrestrial signals. Here's all you need to know

11/04/2022
Credit image: SKA - The telescope is being built across two continents
Credit image: SKA - The telescope is being built across two continents

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 11 April 2022, at 12:33 pm Los Angeles time

Several institutions in the UK have formed a group to create a so-called "brain" prototype to control the world's largest radio telescope, the BBC reports.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope will have 197 dishes and 130,000 antennas in South Africa and Australia. 

These antennas will be connected to each other so that the final results of the research are of the highest quality.

Of course, the antennas will have to communicate with each other, operating in perfect harmony.

And in relation to the software developed now, well, it will be tested for the first time, on a small scale, on a subset of the infrastructure, so that it can then be spread throughout the network.

"We're talking something like 600 petabytes (600 million gigabytes) per year of data coming out of the SKA, to be delivered to astronomers worldwide," Dr Chris Pearson, astronomy group leader at RAL Space told BBC News.

"So it's a scaling problem, it's a processing problem, it's a data transfer problem." He continue.

The new telescope, SKA, will be used for purely scientific purposes as far as is known and will be part of the latest generation telescopes of the 21st century.

During these years, some of the largest and most powerful telescopes of all time have been developed, are being developed and will be developed.

One example is the James Webb Telescope, launched in December last year.

As we expect Webb to answer a few questions about our past, so we expect SKA to bring answers where they are needed.

Thanks to its sensitivity, wavelength resolution and the technology it is equipped with, SKA will be able to provide possible answers to fundamental questions in today's astrophysics.

Some of the questions to which we expect SKA to respond is: What is dark matter ?; How did the first stars come to shine? or Are we alone?

The last question probably caught your eye. Well, SKA will be able to detect extraterrestrial signals (if they exist).

The sensitivity of SKA, which is much higher than that of any telescope, will be able to take over any extraterrestrial transmissions.

But until we get to discover extraterrestrial signals, we're going to have to build the telescope, right?

We'll have to wait.

The international organization behind the SKA project has just officially started the construction of the matrix last year, and this will take much of this decade, the BBC reports.

The costs are huge, and the UK Government has offered to finance 15% of the total construction cost between 2021 and 2030.

The government will send this money through the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), amounting to £ 15 million (for the development of the matrix software).

Called the "brain of the telescope", the software is designed to identify any problems that arise and translate the signals received by the telescope into data that scientists can work with and make new discoveries.

"We will start small," said Dr Pearson.

"The software that we produce will work first on four radio dishes in South Africa. And if you're talking about those small antennas in Australia, it will work on six stations (of 256 antennas) in the first instance.

"And then we have to scale in a smart way. We can't do it linearly as the number of dishes and antennas increases, or it will become impossible."

According to the BBC, this first prototype brain is expected to be up and running in 2024.

Source: BBC

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