Data center to create 3-D map of the stars

A new data center at the University of Cambridge Institute for Astronomy (IoA; Cambridge, UK) will process imaging data from a satellite to create the first three-dimensional map of more than a billion stars.

May 2nd, 2012
Data centre to create 3-D map of the stars
Data centre to create 3-D map of the stars

A new data center at the University of Cambridge Institute for Astronomy (IoA; Cambridge, UK) will process imaging data from a satellite to create the first three-dimensional map of more than a billion stars.

The Gaia satellite, which is due to be launched into space in August 2013, will orbit the Sun at a distance of 1.5 km from Earth and will feed the data center with video of a billion stars, galaxies, quasars and asteroids for five years after it has been launched.

In the data center, a cluster of 108 identical servers will be used for the bulk of the data processing, while nine additional servers will be dedicated to monitoring, backup and control. The 108 processing servers each have two six-core CPUs, 48GBytes of RAM and 9TBytes of hard-disk storage. The individual servers are connected by a 40Gbit/sec Infiniband network to allow rapid communication and transfers of large data volumes.

The system will process the photometric data from the Gaia satellite during the 5-6 years of mission operation, and for two years afterwards, to produce a calibrated set of measurements which can be freely used by the astronomical community.

Gaia is one of the most important current space projects for the UK, which has won approximately €80 million of contracts from ESA to build parts of the spacecraft.

“By creating the first precise 3-D chart of our galaxy, Gaia will help scientists understand the enormous range of complexities related to the origin, structure and evolution of our Milky Way, the past history of the Sun’s location in the Milky Way as well as discover new objects, from asteroids to explosions in the distant universe,” says Professor Gerry Gilmore, from the IoA and the UK Principal Investigator for UK involvement in the mission.

More information can be found on the University of Cambridge web site here.

-- by Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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