CPU cycles for stars: theSkyNet wants your sandbox

And you can win a trip to the desert

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research is the latest to borrow the name of the Terminator antagonist with theSkyNet, a project to crowd-source spare CPU cycles to process astronomy data.

It uses Nereus software from UK company eMedia Track to farm out the processing to a local user’s Java sandbox.

The data will be sourced from radiotelescopes such as the Murchison Widefield Array and Australia’s Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder, farmed out in small chunks to participants’ machines for processing.

The project is sponsored by Western Australia’s Department of Commerce, and is partly designed to raise awareness of the SKA project, as well as complementing the supercomputers at places like the Pawsey Centre.

There’s also an element of (warning: offence to English approaching) “gamification” in theSkyNet: users will earn credits and “unlock achievements” through their participation. They’ll also be able to join forces with other users, and compare their progress to the rest of the community.

According to theSkyNet’s Website, other tools are in the pipeline, including visualization tools and “the opportunity to help identify and catalogue radio wave sources”.

And yes, there is a prize on offer: a trip to the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory in Western Australia. ®

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