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مجهز کردن یک ابر رایانه برای . . .
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[تصویر:  13601643641.jpg]

مجهز کردن یک ابر رایانه برای تحت الشعاع قرار دادن کیهان

It may not be self-aware (yet) but this computing monster is ready to take over the world. Well, at least a telescope in Chile.

Say hello to the correlator for the Atacama Large
Millimeter/Submilimeter Array, or ALMA. The correlator is the computer
that runs at the backend of an array of radio telescopes called an
interferometer. It, very basically, combines all the signals of the
antennas so that it can function as one single telescope.

ANALYSIS: Peering into the Dusty Heart of Centaurus A

The correlator was largely constructed in the building right
across from where I did a lot of my graduate work at the National Radio
Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia. I used to take any
excuse, usually a visiting tour group, to gaze at the supercomputing
monstrosity, although they were only working on it in sections. The
picture above gives you a better sense of its full size.

Though large (134 million processors) and fast (17 quadrillion
operations per second), this computer has just one purpose: to suck in
all of the data from ALMA’s 66 dishes and transform it into data that
can then be sent to the astronomers to calibrate and analyze. The
correlator gives the interferometer its power to see incredibly fine
detail and small structures, such as protoplanetary disks and distant
star-forming galaxies.

The correlator came online in December as yet another step
towards completing ALMA, a telescope that will give astronomers an
unprecedented look at the sky in millimeter wavelengths. First science
results have already been coming in from a partial array and correlator,
giving scientists a tantalizing glimpse at what the full power of the
array will hold.

ANALYSIS: Powerful Chile Telescope Opens its Eyes

Below is a picture of the back of a tiny section of this giant
correlator. With 66 antennas, there are over 2000 combinations of
antenna pairs, which leads to thousands and thousands of physical
connections that must be made between circuit boards by hand. I think it
is fair to say that wires were crossed more than once, and a consistent
labeling scheme was necessary
As impressive as this correlator is, it may be the last of its kind
in an era where correlation is also being done by different methods,
such as software correlators. The current correlator in use at the Very
Long Baseline Array (VLBA) looks like, and actually is, a small cluster
of commercially available computer towers. Not so long ago, the VLBA
correlator was fed by huge tape machines which I also used to watch whir
and spin while taking a break from research in Socorro, New Mexico.

The technology changes while the function basically stays the
same. The ALMA correlator will surely seem an archaic thing by the time
it gets decommissioned far in the future. However, it has many years of
discovery and cutting edge science before that happens.

Image credit: European Southern Observatory.
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