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Vic researchers to play significant role in global project


26 November 2013

Victoria researchers to play significant role in global science project

Victoria University of Wellington researchers are poised to make a significant contribution to one of the world’s largest science projects—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

In an announcement today by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, Victoria University was named as one of two New Zealand research groups which will lead two work areas in the pre-construction of the multi-billion dollar SKA telescope. Auckland University of Technology is the other institution contributing to the research.

It is anticipated that, once operational, the SKA telescope will be the world’s largest, most sensitive radio telescope, capable of revealing new information about the origins and history of the universe.

Victoria University’s Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, a senior lecturer in Astrophysics from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, will lead a team of researchers which will contribute towards the Science Data Processor work package, working alongside other New Zealand and international experts.

Other members from the Victoria University team include Dr Christopher Hollitt and Dr Marcus Frean from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Postdoctoral fellows, PhD, Master’s and Honours students.

“The SKA project has now reached the detailed design phase, which involves groups across the world investigating how best to design the telescope,” says Dr Johnston-Hollitt.

“One of the greatest challenges associated with the SKA project is the ‘big data challenge’ and how we can maximise the scientific return from the vast amount of data generated.

“We’ll be working with our partners from across New Zealand to lead the work concerned with how to best extract information from data captured by the SKA, and determine the computation requirements needed to process it,” she says.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University’s Faculty of Science, is delighted the University’s expertise is continuing to contribute towards the development of the SKA project.

“The SKA radio telescope is currently one of the largest international science and engineering projects, and an exciting one for Victoria’s astrophysicists to be engaged in.

“Victoria’s involvement builds on the University’s track record in radio astronomy, algorithm development and large-scale computing, and will help build New Zealand’s position as a leader in software development and data analysis,” he says.

Dr Johnston-Hollitt has played a significant role in the global effort to develop cutting-edge radio telescopes. She is the New Zealand scientific representative to the SKA Board of Directors, and a primary investigator on the precursor Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope project in Western Australia, which became fully operational earlier this year.


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