IBM Will Power The Murchison Widefield Array For Faster Data Processing
James Bullen
at 11:03 AM Jul 24 2012
A tile from the Murchison Widefield Array
Natasha Hurley-Walker

As we move through the Information Age, it’s become increasingly apparent obstacles to future scientific discovery might not be in the collection of data, as has been the case in the past. Instead, we’ve got so much data we can’t manage it - which is why IBM has partnered with the Murchison Widefield Array radio system to help manage the data it collects about the origin of the universe.

An IBM iDataplex computing cluster will manage the 50 terabytes of data the MWA brings in on a daily basis, at a rate of eight gigabytes per second. The MWA is a series of radio telescopes, with 128 antennas spaced across a 1.5 kilometre area. Each antenna detects radio waves from space, which are converted by the IBM computer cluster into images of the sky. 

“The combination of the MWA, IBM technology and the radio-quiet environment of the Murchison will allow us to search for the incredibly weak signals that come from the early stages in the evolution of the Universe, some 13 billion years ago,” said Professor Steven Tingay, Project Director of the MWA in an IBM press release.

The MWA’s purposes are diverse: among them analysis of the reionisation of the universe and the development of the structures within it, space weather, and the study of pulsars.

“’High performance processing capabilities are essential to facilitating world-class science. The IBM iDataPlex cluster will be used to digitally process incoming signals and produce image data in a standard astronomical format, ready for use by scientists,” said IBM Chief Technologist, Glenn Wightwick, in an IBM press release.

The full tile system and IBM computing cluster should be operational in mid 2013.


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