Canada plays critical role in world’s largest scientific experiment

Cybera and CANARIE, Canada'€™s Advanced Research and Innovation Network, are joining scientists and engineers from around the world at The Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta, this week to discuss plans for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world'€™s largest radio telescope.

The SKA project, involving participants from 20 countries, will enable scientists to determine, among other things, how the first stars were formed, if Einstein'€™s theory of relativity is correct, and if we are alone in the universe. These questions are being discussed at the SKA 2011 conference, an international gathering of engineers, astronomers, astrobiologists, physicists, industrialists and policy makers, taking place in Banff, AB from July 4-8.

'€œCanada'€™s participation in this, the world'€™s largest scientific initiative, is a testament to our scientific talent and our digital infrastructure supporting leading-edge exploration,'€ says Mark Roman, President and CEO of CANARIE.

CANARIE funded a research team from the University of Calgary'€™s Department of Physics and Astronomy to create the digital infrastructure needed to address the SKA'€™s data-intensive needs. Called CyberSKA, the project uses Cybera'€™s and CANARIE'€™s advanced fibre-optic networks to transfer the large data sets being analyzed by researchers. CyberSKA has the potential for commercialization in industries such as biotechnology, resource management, energy, information technology and other sectors that require the ability to access, visualize and process massive data sets.

"€œThe size and scope of the SKA initiative demonstrates how far we'€™ve come in terms of technological innovation to address Big Data research challenges. This kind of digital infrastructure is an essential enabler not only for Canadian research discoveries, but also for diversified economic opportunities," says Robin Winsor, President and CEO of Cybera.

The location of the SKA telescope antennas will be decided in 2012, with sites in Australia and South Africa being short-listed. The SKA'€™s total collecting area will be 1 million square metres (one square kilometre), making it 50 times more sensitive and 10,000 times faster for imaging the sky than the most powerful existing radio telescope arrays. Phase 1 of full science operations is set to begin in 2020.

About the Square Kilometer Array (SKA)
The Square Kilometre Array will be the world'€™s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. An array of thousands of receptors will extend out to distances of 3,000 km from a central core region. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth. Sixty-seven organizations in 20 countries, together with industry partners, are participating in the scientific and technical design of the SKA telescope which will be located in either Australia or Southern Africa. The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction is scheduled to start in 2016. For more information, visit the SKA website.