NSF TeraGrid to carry astronomy data

The National Science Foundation is partnering with the Cornell Theory Center to provide data from the Arecibo Observatory to the national astrophysical community via the NSF TeraGrid.

The TeraGrid, sponsored by NSF's Office of Cyberinfrastructure, is a network of high-performance computers, data resources and tools. The grid software allows researchers to tap into computing power from remote facilities. Operation of the grid also allows NSF researchers to further the state of the art of grid technologies themselves.

The integration of CTC digital assets with the TeraGrid facility also will allow users to develop applications that leverage TeraGrid computational systems to analyze data collections at CTC.

The Arecibo Observatory, the world's largest and most sensitive single-dish radio/radar telescope, is operated by the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center at Cornell under a cooperative agreement with NSF. Arecibo provides state-of-the-art observing facilities for scientists in radio astronomy, solar system radar astronomy and atmospheric studies.

The volume of information being gathered in astronomy today is estimated to be doubling every 18 months or so. This huge growth in data volume is accompanied by a great increase in data complexity. Cornell astronomers, along with consortia of national and international researchers, use the Arecibo telescope to conduct data-intensive surveys. These surveys will produce on the order of thousands of terabytes of data.

"The TeraGrid was established as a cyberinfrastructure foundation to integrate the computational, data and visualization capabilities available to the scientific community,' said Charlie Catlett, director of the NSF TeraGrid project. 'We anticipate the data collections from the CTC will be in great demand, and we are pleased to partner with CTC to develop services and capabilities that will begin to weave the nation's digital assets into a national data framework, analogous to today's networking and computational frameworks."

In this partnership, the TeraGrid will provide a single source of entry to Arecibo's information, allowing it to reach a larger astrophysical community. Arecibo data and refined data products on pulsars and galaxies will provide opportunities with other large-scale surveys that have been done and with telescopes of the future, including the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, to be launched later this year.

CTC will use a 10G wave acquired from the National Lambda Rail, a high-speed fiber-optic national computer network intended to aid terascale computing and provide a test environment for next-generation large-scale networks, to link into the TeraGrid.

Cornell is one of 14 members of NLR. External access to the Arecibo dataset requires high bandwidth connectivity, and CTC's connection to the TeraGrid will provide this performance. Arecibo data can be accessed by users via a Web portal on the TeraGrid site (www.TeraGrid.org).

"The Arecibo data collection, and other Cornell data collections soon to be available via the TeraGrid, are producing large, diverse datasets. It is important that such data be archived for use by current science teams, but also those scientists who may wish to use them for wholly different, even unanticipated, science applications," said CTC acting director Anthony Ingraffea.

A second data compilation, and a combined library and laboratory, or "Web Lab" based on historical collections of the Internet Archive funded by an NSF cybertools grant to CTC, will be available on the TeraGrid later this year.

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