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Star search made easier with Argonne tool

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory : 08 November, 2002  (Technical Article)
Analyzing the billions and billions of data collected from digital sky surveys has been an overwhelming task for scientists, but researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago are conquering it.
The researchers are employing a new 'virtual data system' to store, generate and analyze the origins of data collected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey a digital imaging project that by the end of 2005 will have mapped a quarter of the sky in five colors with a sensitivity two orders of magnitude greater than previous sky surveys.

The project will be the topic of a technical paper presentation from 10:30 to noon in room 314-315 of the Baltimore Convention Center Thursday, Nov. 21. The presentation is a part of SC2002, the 15th annual conference that celebrates achievements and the future of high-performance computing, networking and data technologies.

Argonne researchers Ian Foster and Michael Wilde, along with their collaborators James Annis and Steve Kent from Fermilab and Yong Zhao and Jens Voeckler from the University of Chicago, will describe a virtual data system called Chimera, developed at the University of Chicago. The researchers use Chimera to track relationships between data and the computations that generate the data from clusters of stars mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The resulting data collection will be more than 10 trillion bytes in size.

To tackle this massive amount of data, Argonne researchers are employing Chimera, a primary product of the Grid Physics Network project. GriPhyN is funded by the National Science Foundation to harness large numbers of distributed computers for the storage and analysis of massive quantities of data.

Chimera consists of a searchable virtual data catalog, a language interpreter that translates data definition and query operations, and a scheduling tool that automatically runs computations to generate data that cannot otherwise be found. The system lets researchers automate once-manual processes, speeding up the generation and analysis of data.

'If you look at what scientists do,' said Foster, 'a lot of their time is spent generating data, analyzing data and then generating new data to build up collections of data sets of various forms. By automating the generation and tracking of data, we are giving researchers a powerful new tool to help them work faster, which is essential with the larger sets of data that are becoming the norm.'

This is the first major application for Chimera, but Foster is confident the virtual data system will be used in multiple disciplines. He notes that successes are also being achieved in high-energy physics and that initial experiments are starting in bioinformatics and environmental science.

'Chimera is the first system that allows scientists in any discipline to use an off-the-shelf toolkit to track their data and harness large-scale grid resources,' Foster said. 'Our experience so far suggests Chimera can enhance the accuracy and productivity of scientific data gathering.'
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