‘Brain Machine’ could hear alien signals by 2030

A giant radio telescope will begin scanning the night sky for signals sent by extraterrestrials by the end of the decade.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will include 197 dishes and 130,000 antennas across South Africa and Australia.

It was designed to pick up radio signals – both natural and extraterrestrial – that are too weak to be detected by current telescopes.

Construction began last year and ahead of opening in 2025, researchers are now developing the software needed to operate.

According to BBC News, A team of British scientists is building a prototype ‘brain’ for SKA, which will be the world’s largest radio telescope.

It is tested on a piece of infrastructure before being rolled out across the network.

The artificial brain will help parts of the network communicate across continents and presents a tremendous computing challenge, said Dr. Chris Pearson, head of the astronomy group at RAL Space, told the BBC.

“We’re talking about 600 petabytes (600 million gigabytes) of data per year coming out of the SKA to be delivered to astronomers worldwide,” he said.

“So it’s a scaling issue, a processing issue, a data transfer issue.”

This long exposure photo taken on Monday, April 2, 2012 shows stars over telescope dishes near the Karoo town of Carnarvon, South Africa, which will be used on Friday, May 25, 2012 as the site of the proposed Square Kilometer Array (SKA ) was announced.  Radio Telescope Project.
British scientists hope the Square Kilometer Array radio telescope will be able to transmit more than 600 million gigabytes of signals from space.
AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam

The SKA Observatory is a US$1.84 billion international project that has been in the making for 30 years.

It’s not a single telescope, but a series of dishes and antennas that work together to collect radio waves from the darkest corners of space.

When operational in the late 2020s, the telescope will allow scientists to peer into the early Universe in unprecedented detail.

It will be able to collect low-frequency radio waves dating back almost 14 billion years to the birth of the cosmos.

In addition, scientists will use the telescope to try to detect extremely weak extraterrestrial radio signals – if they exist at all.

Astrobiologists will use the technology to search for amino acids, the building blocks of life, on distant planets and asteroids by identifying their special signatures at specific frequencies.

The various dishes and antennas of the SKA are connected to exchange large amounts of data.

To do this, they must work together in perfect harmony to communicate across locations in South Africa’s Karoo region and Murchison Shire in Western Australia.

Night falls over radio telescope dishes of the KAT-7 array at the proposed South African site for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope near Carnavon in the country's remote Northern Cape province in this long exposure image taken on May 17, 2012.
The Square Kilometer Array radio telescope project has been in development for 30 years.
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The cost is huge and the UK government has offered to fund 15 per cent of the cost of construction between 2021 and 2030.

Funding of $16.24 million is provided by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for software development.

Dubbed the “brain” of the telescope, it serves to identify problems and convert signals received from the telescope into data that scientists can work with to make new discoveries.

“We’re starting small,” said Dr. pearson

“The software we produce will initially work on four radio dishes in South Africa. And if you talk about these small antennas in Australia, initially it will work on six stations (out of 256 antennas).

“And then we need to scale intelligently. We cannot make it linear as the number of dishes and antennas increases, or it will become impossible.”

The SKA will join a series of next-generation telescopes that will become operational this decade.

These include the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope and the massive European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

This story originally appeared on The sun and is reproduced here with permission. ‘Brain Machine’ could hear alien signals by 2030


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