Biggest-ever astronomical data released

Biggest-ever astronomical data released

The worlds largest digital sky survey has released the second edition of data amounting to over 16 petabytes the biggest astronomical information...

The world's largest digital sky survey has released the second edition of data -- amounting to over 1.6 petabytes the biggest astronomical information ever released, scientists say. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in the US in conjunction with the University of Hawai'i Institute for Astronomy (IfA), released data from Pan-STARRS -- the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System. This second release contains over 1.6 petabytes of data, making it the largest volume of astronomical information ever released. The amount of imaging data is equivalent to two billion selfies, or 30,000 times the total text content of Wikipedia, researchers said.

The Pan-STARRS observatory consists of a 1.8-metre telescope equipped with a 1.4-billion-pixel digital camera. Conceived and developed by the IfA, it embarked on a digital survey of the sky in visible and near-infrared light in May 2010. Pan-STARRS was the first survey to observe the entire sky visible from Hawai'i multiple times in many colours of light. One of the survey's goals was to identify moving, transient, and variable objects, including asteroids that could potentially threaten the Earth.

The survey took approximately four years to complete, scanning the sky 12 times in five filters. This second data release provides, for the first time, access to all of the individual exposures at each epoch of time. This will allow astronomers and public users of the archive to search the full survey for high-energy explosive events in the cosmos, discover moving objects in our own solar system, and explore the time domain of the universe. "Pan-STARRS DR2 represents a vast quantity of astronomical data, with many great discoveries already unveiled," said Heather Flewelling, a researcher at the Institute for Astronomy in Hawai'i.

"These discoveries just barely scratch the surface of what is possible, however, and the astronomy community will now be able to dig deep, mine the data, and find the astronomical treasures within that we have not even begun to imagine," said Flewelling. The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects. "The Pan-STARRS1 Survey allows anyone access to millions of images and catalogues containing precision measurements of billions of stars, galaxies, and moving objects," said Ken Chambers, Director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories.

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