CSIRO looks to the petabyte age with massive storage project

New radio telescope will serve as a window to a near future world where such huge volumes of information are generated

Visualisation of ASKAP antennas at the Australian candidate SKA site. Image credit: Paul Bourke

Visualisation of ASKAP antennas at the Australian candidate SKA site. Image credit: Paul Bourke

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is investing in a next-generation telescope which will generate more information than has been collected in the history of radio astronomy.

The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) will comprise of 36 antennas each 12m in diameter, and will be a pathfinder instrument for the full Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The arrays will be part of a new ultra-high resolution visualisation system, CSIROvision, and will extend OptIPortal technology developed by the University of California.

CSIRO group executive Dr Alex Zelinsky said the arrays will help scientists move from lab experiments to the analysis of huge data sets.

“In the first six hours of operation of Australia’s astronomy project, ASKAP in 2012, this instrument will generate more information than the entire history of radio astronomy,” Dr Zelinsky said.

“The amount of information processed by ASKAP in one week will be greater than the number of human words ever spoken.

“Our data requirements are growing exponentially, and for this reason CSIRO is investing in infrastructure to address the challenges for petabyte science.”

A petabyte is equal to one million gigabytes, or a million billion bytes.

CSIROvision will be used to communicate to the general public, as a collaboration system when linked with other optiportals.

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