Oamaru man helps big astronomy project

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An Oamaru man at the forefront of a project set to revolutionise the way we see the universe will be attending a conference in Perth next week to discuss his contribution.

Nicolás Erdödy, whose company Open Parallel is working on the world’s largest radio telescope, will be attending a conference with 300 scientists and engineers from around the world to discuss the design of the project.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort by 11 countries to build the telescope, which is made up of thousands of smaller radio telescopes set to be placed in southern Africa and Australia between 2018 and 2024, to monitor and survey the sky.

Mr Erdödy said the conference next week will be a chance to discuss his company’s first contribution to the SKA, a preliminary software development plan, which was delivered last month.

He became involved in the project after being one of three organisations picked from a number of New Zealand companies who applied after an expression of interest was released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in 2013.

“There was a public call for organisations from New Zealand to participate.”

Open Parallel was chosen because they knew what they were doing and had the right expertise, he said.

“It’s absolutely a privilege [to be working on it].”

Mr Erdödy established a team of seven people from around New Zealand and Australia to work with him on the project.

“We are a small participant but we are on the front line.”

They started work in late 2013 and will need to work for probably another two years after getting feedback from next week’s conference, Mr Erdödy said.

“This is a seriously huge project.

“We are working with the brightest minds in the world.

“It shows big things can be done from Oamaru as well.”

SKA would not only revolutionise astronomy but also help other areas industries because the software system could be easily transferred, he said.

Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON) and SKA Science Data Processor Compute Platform work package leader Dr Agnes Mika said Open Parallel’s “innovative and effective approach to software development is also applicable to other industries…and ensures that benefits from the SKA spill over into industry applications”.

For example areas of optimisation and performance, cloud and green computing, the transport, storage and processing of Big Data, she said.

Open Parallel is the only IT company to be leading two software packages for the SKA.

Open Parallel’s team is lead by Mr Erdödy and includes media platform pioneer and author of DirectX, Alex St John, and global expert in scalability and distributed systems, Rob O’Brien and works in association with Catalyst, the largest open source software company in Australasia.

Visit www.skatelescope.org for more information.

By RUBY HARFIELD

PHOTO: SKA Organisation

OAMARU HELPING: An artist’s impression of some of the telescopes that will be placed in Australia.