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The Square Km Array

A group of UK researchers is building a 'software mind' to unite international facilities into the world’s largest radio telescope. It's expected to offer astrophysicists and astronomers detail and data like never before.

Radio telescopes at the Mullard Radio Observatory just outside Cambridge

The UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) labs and universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Manchester are working together on software to unite many dishes and antennas into a giant observational program, called the Square Kilometre Array.

This will comprise 197 dishes and 130,000 antennas across South Africa and Australia. The goal is to develop software that will unite all of these devices and facilities, enabling them to work in perfect unison. As you can imagine, it is an incredible computational undertaking.

The Square Kilometre Array will afford astrophysicists and astronomers detail and data like never before. Its resolution and sensitivity at radio wavelengths combined with massive computing power will allow researchers to delve deeper into research on the most essential questions of the universe.

What is “dark energy?” How were the first stars born in the early universe? And are we alone? The Square Kilometre Array will be sensitive enough to pick up any transmissions from or between extra-terrestrials.

The UK Government has already allocated £15 million ($20m) to the project through the STFC, and developers have the go-ahead to begin developing the software for the SKA.

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