Autumn 2022 Pawsey update

Wajarri art decorates Australia’s newest supercomputer

A man and a woman in front of large cabinets containing supercomputers. The cabinets are covered in a large format Indigenous dot painting featuring yellows, reds, oranges, and browns.

Mark Stickells and Margaret Whitehurst with the first stage Setonix at Pawsey. Credit: Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

We’re glad to be back in MRO News, and now with a regular update – thanks for the invitation! You might be aware that the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre is named for Australian scientist Dr Joseph Pawsey, known as a pioneer in Australian radio astronomy.

Dr Pawsey’s work underpins the development of the SKA telescopes – just one of many advanced scientific projects supported by our Centre that carries his name.

Since our last update, the first phase of our new $48 million supercomputer known as Setonix – the scientific name for WA’s cheerful marsupial, the quokka – now stands next to its supercomputer cousins, Magnus and Galaxy.

When complete, Setonix will be the fastest public research supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere, with the equivalent power of more than 150,000 laptops working in parallel. That’s more than 30 times the power of our current system, Magnus!

Our supercomputers process data for SKA precursors ASKAP and the MWA, both based at the MRO on Wajarri country. We’re glad to reinforce that connection by continuing the theme of Indigenous art on our supercomputers with Setonix.

Wajarri visual artist Margaret Whitehurst produced the ‘Meteorites’ artwork that adorns Setonix, inspired by the night sky that shines over her country in the Murchison. We were pleased to host Margaret at the Centre recently, when she had the opportunity to see her art displayed on both Magnus and Setonix. We now even have her autograph finishing off the cabinets! Margaret’s art is a beautiful representation of Wajarri astronomy knowledge that dates back tens of thousands of years.

Setonix will process vast amounts of radio telescope data from SKA-related projects as well as hundreds of other projects of national and international significance.

Blond haired, brown skinned woman reaching up with her right arm to sign a white panel with a silver marker. The panels display the text Pawsey and some Indigenous dot artwork in yellow and black.

Wajarri artist Margaret Whitehurst signs the Setonix cabinets at the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre. Credit: Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre.

Mark Stickells, Executive Director, Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre