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Astronomers Pinpoint How Milky Way Was Formed

By Dave Reneke

Astronomers have produced the clearest picture yet of how our galaxy formed more than 13.5 billion years ago.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The world’s largest filled single dish radio telescope began operation in September, and it relies on a piece of Western Australian innovation. The telescope, known as FAST, uses a data system developed at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy (ICRAR) in Perth and the European Southern Observatory to manage the huge amounts of data it generates.

The software is called the Next Generation Archive System (NGAS), and will help astronomers using the telescope to search for rotating neutron stars and look for signs of extraterrestrial life. FAST, or the Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, is so large it had to be built into a valley in Guizhou province in south-west China.

The NGAS data system will help to collect, transport and store about three petabytes of information per year from the telescope. “That’s 100,000 32GB iPods filled every year,” said Prof Andreas Wicenec, who heads up ICRAR’s ICT program and helped design the data system.

Getting that kind of capacity is not too hard, especially in this day and age, but the main challenge is transporting so much data and having the network bandwidth to move it around.

FAST will be one of the most sensitive telescopes ever built. The huge amounts of data produced will allow astronomers to map hydrogen gas in the Milky Way, hunt for rotating neutron stars known as pulsars, and look...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.