Objects in Space -The biggest data processing challenge to date in astronomy: The Gaia mission

Interview with William O'Mullane, Science Operations Development Manager at the European Space Agency, and Vik Nagjee, Product Manager Core Technologies at InterSystems Corporation

(PresseBox) ( San Francisco/Frankfurt, )
The European Space Agency plans to launch in 2013 a Satellite called Gaia. The Gaia mission is considered by the experts "the biggest data processing challenge to date in astronomy".

Roberto V. Zicari, Editor of the Web portal odbms.org (www.odbms.org) interviewed William O'Mullane, Science Operations Development Manager at the European Space Agency, and Vik Nagjee, Product Manager Core Technologies at InterSystems Corporation, both involved in a proof-of-concept of the data processing, manipulation and storage of the Gaia project.

The interview gives insight into the design and results of the proof-of-concept conducted by the European Space Agency together and InterSystems Corporation using Caché for the AGIS database.

"Gaia is ESA's ambitious space astrometry mission, the main objective of which is to astrometrically and spectro-photometrically map 1000 Million celestial objects (mostly in our galaxy) with unprecedented accuracy. The satellite will downlink close to 100 TB of raw telemetry data over 5 years", explains William O'Mullane.

Commenting on the main technical challenges with respect to data processing, manipulation and storage this project, Vik Nagjee says "the sheer volume of data that is expected to be captured by the Gaia satellite poses a technical challenge. For example, 1 billion celestial objects will be surveyed, and roughly 1000 observations (100*10) will be captured for each object, totaling around 1000 billion observations."

All Gaia data processing software is written in Java. A specific part of the Gaia data processing software is the so called Astrometric Global Iterative Solution (AGIS).

"The AGIS database will contain data for roughly 500,000,000 sources (totaling 50,000,000,000 observations). This is roughly 100 Terabyte of Java data objects", says William O'Mullane.

"We were able to ingest 5,000,000,000 AstroElementary objects (roughly 1/10th of the eventual projected amount) in around 12 hours. Our target was to ingest this data within 24 hours, and we were successful at being able to do this in 1/2 the time" explains Vik Nagjee.

The full text of the interview is available at the odbms.org blog:
http://www.odbms.org/blog/2011/02/objects-in-space/

William O'Mullane, Science Operations Development Manager, European Space Agency.

William O'Mullane has a background in Computer Science and has worked on space science projects since 1996 when he assisted with the production of the Hipparcos CDROMS. During this period he was also involved with the Planck and Integral science ground segments as well as contemplating the Gaia data processing problem. From 2000-2005 Wil worked on developing the US National Virtual Observatory (NVO) and on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) in Baltimore, USA. In August 2005 he rejoined the European Space Agency as Gaia Science Operations Development Manager to lead the ESAC development effort for the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium.

Vik Nagjee, Product Manager, Core Technologies, InterSystems Corporation.

Vik Nagjee is the Product Manager for Core Technologies in the Systems Development group at InterSystems. He is responsible for the areas of Reliability, Availability, Scalability, and Performance for InterSystems' core products - Caché and Ensemble.

Prior to joining InterSystems in 2008, Nagjee held several positions, including Security Architect, Development Lead, and head of the performance & scalability group, at Epic Systems Corporation, a leading healthcare application vendor in the US.
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