By 2030, a ‘brain machine’ may receive extraterrestrial transmissions.
By the end of the decade, a huge radio telescope will be scouring the night sky for extraterrestrial transmissions.
The SKA will have 197 dishes and 130,000 antennas spread over South Africa and Australia.
It’s meant to take up radio signals too weak for present telescopes to pick up.
Construction began last year, and now academics are working on the software that will run it.
A British team of scientists is constructing a prototype “brain” for SKA, the world’s largest radio telescope.
It will be tested on a small area of the network before being expanded out.
Dr. Chris Pearson, astronomy group head at RAL Space, told the BBC that the artificial brain would let components of the network interact across continents.
“We’re talking about 600 petabytes (600 million gigabytes) of data every year going out of the SKA,” he stated.
“So it’s a scalability, processing, and data transport issue.”
The SKA Observatory is a $1.84 billion global project.
Instead of a single telescope, this network of dishes and antennas will receive radio waves from deep space.
It will be able to collect low-frequency radio waves from roughly 14 billion years ago.
Moreover, the telescope will be used to search for faint alien radio signals, if any exist.
Astrobiologists will employ the technique to search for amino acids, the building blocks of life, on faraway planets and asteroids.
The SKA’s multiple dishes and antennas will be linked to exchange massive amounts of data.
To accomplish so, they must work in perfect sync across locations in South Africa’s Karoo and Western Australia’s Murchison Shire.
The UK government has pledged to fund 15% of development expenses between 2021 and 2030.
The Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will provide $16.24 million to software development.
The telescope’s “brain” is meant to recognise faults and interpret signals into data that scientists may use to make new discoveries.
“We’ll start small,” Dr. Pearson replied.
“Our programme will initially be tested on four radio dishes in South Africa. In Australia, it will initially function on six stations (of of 256 antennas).
“Then we must scale smartly. It can’t be done linearly as the number of dishes and antennas grows.
The SKA will be one of many next generation telescopes operating this decade.
Among them are the James Webb Space Telescope and the huge European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).