AARNet's trans-continental 10 Gbps connection vital for Australia's SKA bid

Monday, 16 March, 2009

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) hosted a landmark event this week to strengthen Australia’s bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The demonstration included the high-speed transfer of data to Perth, from CSIRO and University of Tasmania radio telescopes on Australia’s east coast, via an AARNet trans-continental 10 Gbps connection. The data transfer was processed in real time on a Perth-based computer cluster located at ICRAR’s Curtin University of Technology node, using state-of-the-art software.

This demonstration was the first time such high data-transfer speeds have been reached when transporting astronomic information from the east coast of Australia to the west. This event was designed to be a first step towards demonstrating the capabilities required for Australia to build the next-generation radio telescope, the SKA, over a 3000-kilometre continental area.

The SKA is one of the most ambitious international science projects ever devised. It is planned to be a radio telescope with 10,000 times greater discovery potential than any of the world’s existing telescopes. The goal for the SKA is to be ready for initial observations by 2016 and fully built by 2020. The observations from the telescope will help to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of the universe.

Australia and Southern Africa have been identified by the international astronomy community as suitable sites for the SKA.

Professor Steven Tingay, ICRAR Deputy Director, said, “The transfer speeds achieved during last night’s demonstration were close to 500 times faster than consumer broadband speeds. The SKA will require an improvement multiplied by a factor of several hundred on this data transfer speed, to support the science goals of the SKA.”

Professor Brian Boyle, CSIRO SKA Director, said, "Western Australia is an excellent location for future large-scale radio astronomy infrastructure because of its remoteness and the clear, noise-free view of the rich Southern Hemisphere skies it offers astronomers. The extensive national collaboration that has wrought this technical advance not only highlights our capabilities in this domain but also points the way towards SKA readiness for Australia."

Chris Hancock, CEO AARNet, said, “This demonstration was an important step in progressing Australia’s bid to host the SKA. The demonstration brought the speed, image quality and functionality of Australia’s eastern-based telescopes to the west via AARNet’s 10-gigabit eVLBI connection.”

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