Monday, October 16, 2017

A Wideband Data Recorder System for the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope

The Breakthrough Listen Search for Intelligent Life: A Wideband Data Recorder System for the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope


MacMahon et al

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative is undertaking a comprehensive search for radio and optical signatures from extraterrestrial civilizations. An integral component of the project is the design and implementation of wide-bandwidth data recorder and signal processing systems. The capabilities of these systems, particularly at radio frequencies, directly determine survey speed; further, given a fixed observing time and spectral coverage, they determine sensitivity as well. Here, we detail the Breakthrough Listen wide-bandwidth data recording system deployed at the 100-m aperture Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. The system digitizes up to 6 GHz of bandwidth at 8 bits for both polarizations, storing the resultant 24 GB/s of data to disk. This system is among the highest data rate baseband recording systems in use in radio astronomy. A future system expansion will double recording capacity, to achieve a total Nyquist bandwidth of 12 GHz in two polarizations. In this paper, we present details of the system architecture, along with salient configuration and disk-write optimizations used to achieve high-throughput data capture on commodity compute servers and consumer-class hard disk drives.

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