The Australian Virtual Observatory

I’ve spent the last two days at the 2004 Workshop for the Australian Virtual Observatory representing VPAC along with my friend & colleague Damon Smith. We were there representing the APAC Compute Grid project and Damon presented on the Certificate Authority that VPAC is running as part of this effort.

However, given that I did my degree in “Physics with Planetary and Space Physics” it was really nice to get to merge two great interests of mine, big computers and astronomy. 🙂

It was really interesting, although at times as virtually everyone there was working in astronomy at postgraduate or postdoc level it was a bit over my head. Some of the really interesting things to come out of it were:

  • NIght Sky Live – a website that links to images from CONCAMs (CONtinuous CAMeras) that are mounted on a number of telescopes worldwide, and a number of them are always in night. There are two in Australia, both at Siding Spring.
  • The second of the two scopes at Siding Spring is a robotic telescope known as a ROTSE (actually it is ROTSE IIIa) and is involved in automatic follow-ups of Gamma-Ray burst events.
  • SkyMapper (to be built at Siding Spring by ANU) is going to be the replacement for the Great Melbourne Telescope which was destroyed by bushfire in 2003. It will do a full-sky survey of the southern hemisphere (all 20,000 square degrees) and catalogue over 1 billion sources. They estimate they’ll have generated around 90TB of data (65TB images and 25TB calibration) by the time they’ve finished the survey.
  • Swinburne are working hard at bringing online about 12TB of historical pulsar data from the southern hemisphere, and their CPSR2 dector generates about 11TB of raw data a day (128MB/s), so they have to process it all (“fold it”) down to about 1.5TB a day to make it manageable.

But the scariest fact of the day must go to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which apparently will be capable of generating 8 PetaBytes of data each year once it goes live!