Data-Heavy Heavens: Big Data, But Not As We Know It

Data-Heavy Heavens: Big Data, But Not As We Know It

Big Data, But Not as we Know It

As astronomy equipment becomes ever more complex and harvests ever increasing amounts of information from our skies, companies are applying the theories of big data to try and answer one of humanity’s most profound questions – are we alone?

Data-Heavy Heavens

The amount of data collected is mind-boggling. Take the example of the Square Kilometre Array Project (SKA) – a $2 billion joint radio telescope development between Australia, South Africa and the UK. Upon the launch of Phase One in 2020 the project will collect a staggering 915 Petabytes of data per day (approximately 960 million Gigabytes) – that’s nearly 2 million years’ worth of playback on a standard MP3 Player. By the time the operation is fully functional in 2025 the SKA’s will produce ten times the global internet traffic of the entire of 2013.

SKA-DATA

(Image source: http://www.skatelescope.org )

While the search for alien life is not the project’s primary purpose, if life does exist the dishes have a good chance of finding it. The SKA’s telescopes will be so powerful and sensitive that the scientists involved predict that it will be capable of detecting an airport radar signal on an airport 100 light-years away.

Processing and Managing

Naturally, making sense of all this data requires some serious computing power, and the SKA central supercomputer doesn’t disappoint – possessing the processing power of 100 million high-spec PCs and able to perform an ExaFLOP (1018 million trillion) of operations per second.

Storing and archiving this data also requires some creative solutions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is already working on developing open-source software that uses innovative cloud computing techniques to organise, manage and catalogue the huge amounts of daily data.

All this alien chasing also has real-world benefits. Today’s computers are still limited to PetaFLOPs which means the SKA’s computational technology will be applicable to large-scale computing everywhere, and the JPL team hope the complex data management tools they develop will help businesses archive and access their data with more ease.

Back on Earth

The vast amount of data collected has offered exciting opportunities to companies back on earth. A good example is Skytree, a 20-employee start-up in San Jose specialising in developing machine learning through the use of big data. The company has recently partnered with the SETI Institute and hopes to use complex algorithms to sift through the massive volumes of data to find patterns, relationships, anomalies and outliers. The techniques allow the Institute to look for signs of extra-terrestrial life in data that was previously discarded due to its size – indeed it’s possible that evidence of an extra-terrestrial life is already hiding in their archives.

It’s not just tech companies and scientific researchers who have access to the big data that’s been collected. SETI Live allows enthusiasts to use their own PCs to access live radio frequency signals SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) – giving them the tools to identify and report any suspicious patterns that could be indicative of alien life.

Successful?

Whether or not we will ever find extra-terrestrial is naturally debatable, but one thing is certain – if we do detect that life exists then big data will have played a massive part in the discovery.

What do you think? Is this a useful deployment of big data, or could the money and manpower be better spent elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

About Daniel Price

Daniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe and currently lives on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. A former Financial Consultant, he now balances his time between writing articles for several industry-leading tech (CloudTweaks.com & MakeUseOf.com), sports, and travel sites and looking after his three dogs.

View Website
View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comics
5% Of Companies Have Embraced The Digital Innovation Fostered By Cloud Computing

5% Of Companies Have Embraced The Digital Innovation Fostered By Cloud Computing

Embracing The Cloud We love the stories of big complacent industry leaders having their positions sledge hammered by nimble cloud-based competitors. Saleforce.com chews up Oracle’s CRM business. Airbnb has a bigger market cap than Marriott. Amazon crushes Walmart (and pretty much every other retailer). We say: “How could they have not seen this coming?” But, more…

Three Reasons Cloud Adoption Can Close The Federal Government’s Tech Gap

Three Reasons Cloud Adoption Can Close The Federal Government’s Tech Gap

Federal Government Cloud Adoption No one has ever accused the U.S. government of being technologically savvy. Aging software, systems and processes, internal politics, restricted budgets and a cultural resistance to change have set the federal sector years behind its private sector counterparts. Data and information security concerns have also been a major contributing factor inhibiting the…

Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment? Find Out

Cloud-Based or On-Premise ERP Deployment? Find Out

ERP Deployment You know how ERP deployment can improve processes within your supply chain, and the things to keep in mind when implementing an ERP system. But do you know if cloud-based or on-premise ERP deployment is better for your company or industry? While cloud computing is becoming more and more popular, it is worth…

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart  Breaches Formal verification is not a new concept. In a nutshell, the process uses sophisticated math to prove or disprove whether a system achieves its desired functional specifications. It is employed by organizations that build products that absolutely cannot fail. One of the reasons NASA rovers are still roaming Mars…

Two 2017 Trends From A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Two 2017 Trends From A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Reaching For The Stars People who know me know that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I recently had the opportunity to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While I won’t give any spoilers away for the few who haven’t seen the movie yet, I do want to mention a couple of trends from…

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

How to Identify and Authenticate in the Expanding IoT Ecosystem It is a necessity to protect IoT devices and their associated data. As the IoT ecosystem continues to expand, the need to create an identity to newly-connected things is becoming increasingly crucial. These ‘things’ can include anything from basic sensors and gateways to industrial controls…

Cost of the Cloud: Is It Really Worth It?

Cost of the Cloud: Is It Really Worth It?

Cost of the Cloud Cloud computing is more than just another storage tier. Imagine if you’re able to scale up 10x just to handle seasonal volumes or rely on a true disaster-recovery solution without upfront capital. Although the pay-as-you-go pricing model of cloud computing makes it a noticeable expense, it’s the only solution for many…