The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is driving the largest big-data challenge of the coming decade. The operation of the South African MeerKAT radio telescope marks the beginning of a big-data revolution in Africa.

MeerKAT will be operated as a national facility for about five years before being incorporated into the SKA. As such, it is a precursor of the SKA itself, and its scientific programmes and data systems are on the pathway to the SKA.

The Ilifu astronomy strategic project focuses on the data flow, processing and scientific analysis of the large data sets from the five imaging MeerKAT Large Survey Projects: MIGHTEE, LADUMA, MHONGHOOSE, ThunderKAT and the MeerKAT Fornax Survey. Since, for certain science goals, radio astronomy data provides only part of the scientific data required, this project also involves the development of data systems and tools for analysis of multi-wavelength astronomy data.

The goals of the astronomy science project are to:

  • Set up an agile calibration and a development environment for imaging workflows to process data from MeerKAT and other SKA precursor and pathfinder projects.
  • Develop systems for science-project-based data flow, transport and management between data sources and the Ilifu facility.
  • Provide a platform for provision of resources to users for post-processing and analytics of MeerKAT science products.
  • Establish eResearch platforms and tools to facilitate user access and collaboration.
  • Work with the International Virtual Observatory and the South African Astroinformatics Alliance on metadata standards and database systems for multi-wavelength astronomy analyses.
  • Work with national and international collaborators to establish a federated cloud system that brings together distributed infrastructure and data resources into an eResearch platform.