The University of Wollongong has welcomed world renowned astrophysicist Professor Peter Quinn to the campus in January, as he gave a public lecture on “The Square Kilometre Array: Project status, Australian developments and future data challenges.”
Phase 1 of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will be the world’s largest ground-based astronomy facility, with commissioning and early science operations planned for the mid 2020s.
The SKA will probe the history of the Universe back to the creation of the first stars and map billions of previously unknown galaxies. The project will go through a critical systems design in 2019/20 leading to a construction start in 2021.
"One of the most exciting things about the SKA is what it will discover that we have never seen before - with such a new big window on the Universe and a very sensitive radio “ear” on the sky, we may well find the first evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. I will be very surprised if the SKA, and the Australian scientists that use it, will not make discoveries that lead to at least one Nobel Prize in its first 10 years of operations," said Prof. Quinn.
The SKA Mid precursor (MeerKAT) and SKA Low precursor (MWA) have been operational on the South African and Australian SKA sites in the past 3 years and are both producing major science results. Large survey projects on SKA-low and SKA-mid will produce a science data product data flow of 300-700 PB/year.
At the lecture, Prof. Quinn reviewed the status of the overall SKA project, developments on the Australian site, SKA data challenges and the evolving planning to deal with the SKA data flow via a network of SKA regional data and processing centres.
"Every year the SKA will generate more data than the entire internet does today. This data deluge will result in new big data challenges, data science jobs and new industrial opportunities in Australia and internationally. It will map the radio Universe with a depth and clarity we have not be able to achieve before and is expected to discover billions of new galaxies."
"The project will result in an investment of several hundreds million dollars into the Australia economy, will create hundreds of new high skilled job opportunities and will provide valuable technology spin-offs from Australian industries."
His visit to Wollongong coincided with the Wollongong City Council Australia Day Awards ceremony where Prof. Quinn received the ‘Wollongong to the World 2020’ award for his contribution to astrophysics and astronomy.
About Professor Quinn
Peter graduated from ANU with his PhD in astronomy in 1982. During appointments at Caltech and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute, Peter pursued his research interests in galaxy formation and dynamics, computational cosmology and dark matter. In 1989, he led the Australian involvement in the MACHO Dark Matter Search Project whose discoveries featured on the front cover of Nature 1993. In 1995, Peter accepted a position as Division Head at the European Southern Observatory headquarters in Munich. While at ESO, Peter led the efforts to set up science operations and data systems for the world’s largest optical observatory in Cerro Paranal, Chile.
In August 2006, Peter became Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Western Australia and was appointed Inaugural Director of the new International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in 2009. Peter is Deputy Chair of the Australian and New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee, he has published over 300 research articles and became WA Scientist of the Year in 2012. He was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2013.
He has made a significant and lasting contribution to his field, and to building a deeper understanding and knowledge of the universe we live in. He is an exceptional researcher and innovator, and the 2016 recipient of the Alumni Award for Research and Innovation at UOW.