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Posted: Sep 02, 2014
$1.5M software grant to process solar astronomy data on larger scale
(Nanowerk News) Researchers in Georgia State University’s new Astroinformatics program have been awarded $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation to develop software tools that can process large sets of solar astronomy data and allow scientists to perform analyses on scales and detail levels that have not been possible.
Dr. Rafal Angryk of the Department of Computer Science is the principal investigator and and Dr. Petrus Martens of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dr. Katharine Reeves of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are the co-principal investigators. They are working to improve tools that were designed by an international consortium, the Solar Dynamics Observatory Feature Finding Team, funded by NASA and led by Petrus Martens, that sort through large volumes of solar imaging data and identify features and phenomena of interest to solar researchers.
The improvements would allow the solar community to pursue a wide range of research projects that previously would have taken an excessive time to complete. Solar physics and space weather communities could use the software tools to perform large-scale data-driven discovery and analyses of the relationships between different types of solar activity on scales and detail levels that are unprecedented.
“There is no doubt that we are in the era of Big Data, or as I like to refer to it as ‘The Data Deluge,’” said Dr. Rajshekhar Sunderraman, chair of the Department of Computer Science at Georgia State. “Traditional approaches to dealing with data fail miserably with the volume of data being generated, and we need innovative algorithms and software tools to analyze the data and infer new knowledge in a timely manner. Even though this project specifically targets solar data, the methods and tools devised would be applicable to a wide range of other domains. We are excited to be part of the project and hope for important breakthroughs to be made.”
In 2010, the launch of NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory brought massive data to solar physics. The ground-based Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, under construction in Maui, will provide even larger volumes of solar imaging and magnetic field data.
This project will provide easy access to a scalable and high-end tracking and analytics toolkit for solar events and build and publicize large-scale solar data products that are easy to download and understand. It will strengthen the basic science needed to meet the goals of the national space weather programs, which are designed to develop the diagnostic tools to forecast conditions in the near space environment that can affect communication satellites, navigation systems, power grids, and space and air travels.
The software could also benefit other scientific areas that register and analyze data in the forms of spatial objects that evolve over time, such as terrestrial weather, climate-related research and analyses of migration dynamics.
Georgia State’s Astroinformatics program was started as part of the university’s Second Century Initiative, a faculty hiring initiative aimed at fostering collaboration and building internationally recognized scholarly research strength in areas of national significance. The Astroinformatics program involves collaboration between Georgia State’s astronomy and computer science programs.