Lugano/Zurich - The Swiss National Supercomputing Center CSCS will receive and evaluate the enormous volume of data produced by the world’s largest radio telescope each year. It will be built in South Africa and Australia from December onwards. Swiss researchers from throughout the country are involved in the multi-nation project.

Swiss consortium researching the origins of the universe
Swiss consortium researching the origins of the universe

The broadly aligned Swiss research consortium SKACH is preparing for the start of the largest and most ambitious radio-astronomy project the world has ever seen, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO). Construction of the facility is due to begin in December and is expected to be completed by the end of 2029. It will bring together 130,000 antennae situated across thousands of square kilometers in Australia with 197 satellite dishes in South Africa. SKAO will aim to deliver completely new insights into the first billion years on the universe.

Switzerland became the eighth country to join the project in January. Previously, numerous Swiss research organizations had closely supported its development. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) was part of the task force that developed the structure of the multi-nation organization. In Switzerland, it is coordinated by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), which also explains the project as part of a video. In its whitepaper, it described SKAO as the “largest scientific facility built by humankind” and one of the “cornerstone physics machines” of the 21st century.

On October 3 and 4, the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI: University of Italian Switzerland) hosted the sixth edition of the Swiss SKA Days . More than 100 representatives of the Swiss SKA consortium discussed Swiss scientific and industrial interests in this ambitious project, which had already been highlighted by the EPFL in 2020. A visit to the Swiss National Supercomputing Center CSCS in Lugano was also on the agenda. “The whole of Switzerland is involved in SKAO, from science to data analysis, from instrumentation to communication”, according to comments from SKACH director Carolyn Crichton in an interview with RSI News

In conjunction with other centers across the world, the CSCS will receive and analyze a portion of the approximately 700 petabyte data volume with its new supercomputer Alps. The Swiss consortium also includes the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), the universities of Basel and Geneva, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the International Space Science Institute Bern and the School of Engineering and Management Vaud (HEIG-VD).

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