After Egypt, South Africa is the second African country to connect directly to NetherLight in Amsterdam. With the 20 Gbit/s connection to NetherLight, SANReN and TENET now also benefit from redundant connections to ANA-300G. These connections allow education and research institutions in South Africa to send data swiftly and safely to the United States, Canada and Europe.
Direct connectivity to South Africa is essential for a variety of international scientific projects. South Africa is an important partner for the Netherlands, among other things, in the field of radio astronomy. For example, the large radio telescope near Hartebeesthoek in South Africa is part of the European very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) network and data are routinely transported to the Netherlands where they are processed and analyzed at the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC hosted at ASTRON. By connecting these geographically separated telescopes together digitally, astronomers can create some the sharpest images of the sky possible at radio wavelengths. In addition, scientists, engineers and policymakers from various countries are now involved in working on the SKA project, which will enable a wide range of new science projects.
When ultimately completed, the SKA will digitally connect hundreds of radio dishes and hundreds of thousands of individual antennas to create a new telescope of unparalleled sensitivity and study a wide range of transformational science from the earliest phases of the evolution of the universe to the origins of life itself.
Physically located in two geographically separated sites in Western Australia and South Africa, the SKA is expected to deliver hundreds of petabytes of science data a year to researchers around the world, once the first phase of construction is completed, and grow to exabytes in the coming decade. SKA data will be transported from the telescope sites in Australia and South Africa and distributed to a network of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs) in Europe and around the world. Connectivity, therefore, is an essential component of operating this network of SRCs and allowing astronomers around the world to extract scientific results from SKA data.
The Netherlands institute for radio astronomy ASTRON is currently leading several efforts to design that network and to establish a SKA Regional Centre in Europe. The new fast connection between the South African NREN and NetherLight will allow researchers in the Netherlands to gain experience transporting and analyzing large distributed data collections and prepare for the full SKA data rates to come.
"This new data connection to South Africa gives us the opportunity to get real hands on experience working with distributed data at this new scale. With LOFAR here in the Netherlands and the new MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, we already have some of the largest collections of astronomy data in the world. Thanks to this new high-speed line, we can start prototyping how we will actually interact with the SKA and its data products and let astronomers do their science", stated Dr. Michael Wise from ASTRON.