3 mins read 29 Oct 2020

SKA launches second data challenge

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation has announced its second Science Data Challenge – SDC2. And its sights are set on the ‘Cosmic Dawn’.

A composite image bringing together the two SKA sites under a shared sky. Pictured are some of the SKA precursor telescopes, South Africa’s KAT-7 and MeerKAT telescopes on the left and Australia’s ASKAP telescope on the right. Credit: SKA Organisation.

SKA is looking towards the Cosmic Dawn on its latest challenge to the science community. This period in the early Universe that will be studied started around 380,000 years after the Big Bang, before the first galaxies began to shine. 

SDC2 will see teams analyse a 1TB simulated neutral hydrogen (HI) data cube, in order to find and characterise the neutral hydrogen content of galaxies across a sky area of 20 square degrees.

Run as part of the preparatory activities, the data challenges help to inform the development requirements of the data reduction pipelines of the Science Data Processors and Science Regional Centres. It also allows the science community to gain familiarity with the products SKA will deliver and optimise their analyses to extract science results from them.  

The challenge is open to anyone over 18, anywhere in the world. Each team will be allocated a particular computing resource and where possible, will be given their preference.

SKA reports, “In order to provide such a large dataset for analysis, we have teamed up with high-performance computing facilities around the world. Participants will be invited to compete in teams and create accounts at one of those facilities, on which the data will be accessed and processed directly.”.

The first challenge was run over 6 months from November 2018 to the end of April 2019. This second challenge is now open for expressions of interest and to find out more about the challenge. Sign up for the challenge on the SDC2 Challenge 2 website.

About the SKA Observatory

The SKA Observatory will be the world’s largest radio telescope hosted across two continents, Australia and Africa. Australia recently ratified the SKA convention to form the SKA Observatory along with South Africa, The Netherlands and Italy. The United Kingdom hopes to ratify the convention by the end of the year and once this happens, the SKA Observatory will officially come into being.

Australia already hosts (through our national science agency, CSIRO) the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) and Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). MRO will host a low-frequency telescope called SKA-Low, an array of 130,000 small antennas across a distance of up to 65km in Western Australia, 800 km north of Perth.

South Africa is already host to the KAT7 telescope array and the MeerKAT telescope array, a 64-dish system which is a precursor to the SKA. The MeerKAT array will be integrated into the first phase of SKA-Mid, which will comprise almost 200 dishes.

 We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamaji people as the traditional owners and custodians of the SKA-Low site (the MRO) in Western Australia.

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