[ASC-media] CSIRO: CSIRO astronomers to join "private data highway" across USA

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Wed Apr 23 02:47:54 CEST 2008

April 23 2008

Ref 08/60

CSIRO astronomers to join "private data highway" across USA

CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility has been awarded a
"private data highway" - a 10 gigabit per second link - across the US by
a major internet consortium and a US communications company.

The link will allow the ATNF and collaborating institutions to show that
large data sets can be moved, in real time, to and from Australia and
around the globe. 

"This will be important for demonstrating techniques that will be used
for the international Square Kilometre Array radio telescope," said
Professor Brian Boyle, Director of CSIRO's Australia Telescope National

The award is the first IDEA (Internet2 Driving Exemplary Applications)
Wave of the Future Award from the Internet2 consortium, which represents
more than 300 US universities, companies and government research
The award is sponsored by Level 3 Communications, an international
communications company headquartered in Colorado. It was presented at
the Internet2 Spring Members' Meeting held in Arlington, Virginia.

In the first instance, CSIRO's astronomers will use the link to work
with colleagues at the Haystack Observatory run by MIT (Massachusetts
Institute of Technology). Astronomers at both institutions are
pioneering the use of data networks to link widely separated radio
telescopes in real time.

"By providing this circuit for this innovative application, we hope to
support greater global collaboration and investments in radio astronomy
research, and encourage innovative thinking about how new optical
networking technology enables science and engineering," said Jack Suess,
CIO of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and vice-chair of
the Internet2 Applications, Middleware and Services Advisory Council. 

The technique the astronomers are working on is called e-VLBI
(electronic very long baseline interferometry).  In this, telescopes
hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart observe the same region of sky
simultaneously. Data from each telescope are sampled and sent to a
super-computer via high-speed networks. The super-computer decodes and
correlates the data and generates very high-resolution images of the
cosmic objects being observed.

"Currently, in a 12-hour VLBI experiment, each telescope used generates
about 5500 gigabytes of data, which is the equivalent of 8500 CDs,"
explains Dr Tasso Tzioumis, Coordinator of VLBI Operations and
Development at the Australia Telescope National Facility.

"And in the next few years we expect to have even faster data rates."

A typical VLBI experiment in Australia involves five or six telescopes,
while an international experiment could use up to 20.

E-VLBI has eliminated the weeks or even months it used to take to record
and ship this data around on disks. 

It also allows astronomers to get instant feedback during observations,
which will open up the study of quickly evolving, transient phenomena in
the Universe.

"We've made enormous progress since our first e-VLBI tests in 2006, but
we're not yet able to just set up these experiments and press the 'go'
button," said Dr Shaun Amy, Data Transmission Specialist for CSIRO's
Australia Telescope National Facility, who accepted the Internet2 award
for CSIRO.

"This dedicated circuit will let us work out how to make these systems
operate routinely. And what we discover about overcoming roadblocks to
high data throughput will help researchers in other fields of science." 

The Internet2-sponsored link across the USA will be made available for a
year. The data link from Sydney to Los Angeles will be provided by the
Australian Academic and Research Network, AARNet. 

Further Information: 
Dr Shaun Amy
CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
+61 419 209 971 (mob.) 
Currently in the eastern USA (14 hours behind Sydney time).
Shaun.Amy at csiro.au 

Professor Brian Boyle
CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
02 9372 4251 (office)
Brian.Boyle at csiro.au 

Dr Tasso Tzioumis
CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
02 9372 4350 (office)
0409 447 902 (mob.)
Tasso.Tzioumis at csiro.au 

Media Assistance:

Helen Sim, Australia Telescope National Facility
02 9372 4251 (office) 0419 635 905 (mob.)
Helen.Sim at csiro.au  


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