Chilean astroinformatics platform joins International Virtual Observatory
ALMA/DICYT The project designed to manage and analyze the almost 250 terabytes of data that the Atacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) will generate each year has joined the International Virtual Observatory Alliance, becoming a key initiative in Chile's contribution to astroinformatics around the world.
The need for a collaborative technology infrastructure for astronomical research in Chile led five leading Chilean universities to participate in the "Astroinformatics Platform Development" project, with financing from the Fund to Promote Scientific and Technological Development (a CONICYT program).
This astroinformatics initiative, which is now completing its first year of execution, is sponsored by REUNA and ALMA with participating academics from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Universidad de Chile, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Santiago and Universidad de Concepción. "The astronomy community will have tools that facilitate consultations of the data in the Virtual Observatory and extraction of relevant information for research," said Jorge Ibsen, ALMA's Computing Department Director and member of the project’s Board.
This project has enabled Chile to become a member of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA). This came about as the result of efforts begun in May of this year by the project director and professor at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM), Dr. Mauricio Solar, who participated in the annual IVOA meeting in Heidelberg, Germany, where he formally requested Chile's entry into the international alliance.
That request was unanimously accepted at the organization's meeting held in Hawaii on September 28. "This is an important recognition of the astroinformatics competencies that have been developed in Chile since 2004," said Solar.
The project director added, "Our developments will be implemented in Chile, but the service will be available to the entire community of astronomers who want to use ALMA's astronomy data search methods as well as the data analysis and visualization tools." This Chilean Virtual Observatory, known as ChiVO, will enable management and intelligent analysis on a large scale–close to 750 gigabytes per day–of data captured by ALMA.
Diego Mardones, a professor at Universidad de Chile and a researcher on the project, explained that the platform will be operating in 2015 and its impact "will grow over time, as the volume of public data from ALMA increases. This tool helps ensure that the data are actually used by astronomers from all specialties."
The Virtual Observatory Network is an international initiative designed to hold all astronomy data in a single, transparent system, making the data available to all researchers regardless of their affiliation or access to observation facilities.
The Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO) is one of many now in development around the world. The scientific data obtained from ALMA are the property of the lead researcher on each observation proposal for one year. After that time, the data become public and any scientist may request access to them.
According to experts, ChiVO will be a useful tool not only for astronomers, but also for Chile's educational establishments. "Although the priority of ChiVO is to serve as a tool for professional astronomers, there are aspects of it that will enable easy adaptation for use in schools. Therefore, one of the project's objectives is to bring ALMA data to Chile's schools once the educational aspects are being implemented," explained Mardones.