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Visual Exploration of Big (Astronomical) Data

André Moitinho de Almeida


Visual data exploration is essential to the scientific process. It can provide scientific insight that blind statistical analysis cannot. Often, this visual insight is the starting point and even the guiding reference for scientific thought.

Today's large scale astronomical surveys and observatories are producing colossal archives, posing big challenges to the exploration of their breathtaking information content. In short these challenges consist of:
  • Overcoming the physical size of the archive: or how to enable interactive exploration of large archives with common hardware used by most people
  • Overcoming the information content of the archive: or how to make sense of so many data and so many (high dimensional) interrelations.

The large data volumes together with Virtual Observatory standards for data interexchange and application messaging are producing a paradigm shift in the way data is explored. The tendency is becoming not to download the data to the user's workstation and explore it locally, but instead to use on-line services for querying and exploring those archives. Thus, it also becomes natural to address modern visual data exploration with on-line services. Indeed, this is becoming a reality and recent services such as rapidgraph and plotly are receiving attention from the astronomical community.

In this seminar I will present a system developed for dealing with the petabyte scale archive of the ESA Gaia mission.
Although driven by the needs of the Gaia mission, the software is quite general and can be used with any kind of tabular point data. Application to other space missions and scientific fields such as Geo and Bioinformatics will be discussed.

2015 October 01, 15:00

Observatório Astronómico de Lisboa (Seminar room)
Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-018 Lisboa

Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Outreach at IA