When it comes to telescopes, bigger is always better. That's why IBM is partnering with Netherlands-based astronomy institute ASTRON to develop the largest and most powerful telescope system the world has ever seen. Here, a look at the massive undertaking:
How big would this telescope be?
The supercomputing radio telescope, called the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), wouldn't be a traditional telescope. Instead, it would be a system of thousands of dishes spread across 3,000 kilometers, and linked together to get an enormously rich view of our universe. IBM and ASTRON, with the aid of an international team of astronomers from 20 countries, hope to have the SKA project up and running by 2024.
What would the telescope do?
It would be charged with peering into the farthest reaches of space, says Matt Peckham at TIME. Astronomers would be able to see some 13 billion light years away, allowing them to study dark matter, evolving galaxies, and hopefully, the very origins of the universe.
Just how powerful is SKA?
SKA will be thousands of times more powerful than today's most powerful computers. The system would take in an unprecedented 300 to 1,500 petabytes of star-crunching data annually; in comparison, CERN's Large Hadron Collider generates a meager 15 petabytes per year. "If you take the current global daily internet traffic and multiply it by two, you are in the range the data set that the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope will be collecting every day," says IBM researcher Ton Engbersen. "This is big data analytics to the extreme."
What obstacles must be overcome?
The project will require enormous amounts of energy, for starters. So first, researchers must investigate "low-power usage" technology needed just to make the telescope's "processing horsepower" feasible, says Larry Dignan at CNET.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How I lost all my money
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Pope Francis' American problem
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- Vox, derp, and the intellectual stagnation of the left
Subscribe to the Week