DIRAC Institute plans big-data astronomy

Artwork shows the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope scanning the night sky in Chile. (LSST Illustration)

A new data analysis center for what’s expected to be torrents of astronomical imagery is taking shape at the University of Washington.

Thanks to contributions from software billionaire Charles Simonyi and other donors, researchers at the Astronomy Department’s DIRAC Institute are getting ready to crunch data from two wide-angle telescope surveys.

The first survey is the Palomar Observatory’s Zwicky Transient Facility, which is due to begin operations in August and will scan the entire accessible sky every night for supernovae and other cosmic outbursts.

The DIRAC Institute will also manage the development of analytical tools for the almost real-time processing of images from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a massive observatory that’s scheduled to start scanning the skies over Chile in 2019.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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