25 January 2019
The latest design milestone has been completed for what will soon be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - with the international Signal and Data Transport (SaDT) engineering consortium concluding its work to design the complex system of networking that forms the backbone of the SKA.
The UK-led team have designed a system that will be required to transport unprecedented amounts of data over vast distances, while ensuring that signals are synchronised in a way that enables the arrays to operate together like a single telescope, a huge challenge given the large number of antennas spread over hundreds of kilometres in both South Africa and Western Australia.
The detailed design of this vital element has been led by the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (JBCA) group at University of Manchester (UoM) in the UK, funded by STFC, as part of a consortium that brought together 15 different organisations spread across eight countries.
“The precision of the synchronisation is truly mind-boggling - the accuracy is much better than a billionth of a millisecond!" said Consortium Lead Professor Keith Grainge from the University of Manchester. "As an example, even light, which is the fastest thing there is, will travel less than a millimetre in this time."
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester.
STFC provides funding for the UK’s involvement in the SKA project’s detailed design phase, enabling UK institutes, laboratories and industry to participate in the international work collaborations needed to progress SKA to construction readiness. STFC also provides funding to support operation of the SKA Project Headquarters.
Scientists and engineers from the UK and around the world, together with industry partners, are participating in the SKA project which is driving technology development in antennas, data transport, software and computing, and power. The influence of the SKA project extends beyond radio astronomy. The designs, construction and operation of the SKA have the potential to impact skills development, employment and economic growth in science, engineering and associated industries, not only in the host countries but in all partner countries.
Last updated: 28 January 2019