September 13, 2011

The Skynet project involves using the spare processing capacity of computers as a giant, distributed supercomputer.

PCs joining Skynet will scour the data for sources of radiation that reveal stars, galaxies and other cosmic structures.

People who process the most data could win a visit to one of the observatories gathering data for the project.

Star searchers

The Skynet project is being run by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and it is seeking the help of thousands of PCs to analyse data.

One of the sources of data will be the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that will use thousands of dish antennas to create the most sensitive sky watching instrument ever made.

A decision about where to build the £1.5bn SKA will be made in February 2012 and it will be sited in either Australia or South Africa.

While it will have its own cadre of supercomputers to analyse data, the SKA is expected to produce so much information that a system to filter this down to the most interesting samples will be needed. Skynet will be part of that large-scale filtering system.

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