Large Datasets

JHU astrophysicists are among the world’s leading developers of new astronomical tools. Our department is a full member of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which mapped a quarter of the sky and obtained spectra of a million galaxies, 100,000 quasars, and sundry stars and other interesting objects in its first and second phase. SDSS is continuing to acquire data for a range of novel projects in Galactic and extragalactic astronomy. The late Prof. Paul Feldman built the spectrograph for the SDSS, while Prof. Alex Szalay designed the data archive, which is hosted here in our department. Based on that experience, Prof. Szalay became a Co-Principal Investigator of the National Virtual Observatory, a project merging the electronic databases of a large number of astronomical surveys. He is also involved in a number of other programs to make use of extremely large scientific databases, in medicine, earth sciences, and other disciplines.

Furthermore, JHU is one of only three US university members of the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) which repeatedly scans 75% of the sky in search of time-varying astronomical objects. It is a pre-cursor to the highest-ranked astronomical project of the next decade — the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, of which our department is also a full institutional member. Our plans for the next decade include leadership in the next generation of the spectroscopic surveys, and CAS is part of the international collaboration designing the Prime Focus Spectrograph on Subaru Telescope. Profs. Bennett, Heckman, Menard and Zakamska are involved in the infrastructure and software development for this project, which leads in the new generation of the spectroscopic surveys. Discoveries made using the wealth of proprietary data on our survey facilities are often followed up using our time share of the 3.5 m telescope at the Apache Point Observatory.