ASTERICS: the network that brings together physicists and astronomers to address the big data challenge
ASTERICS is a European project that brings together astronomers, astrophysicists and particle physicists with the aim of setting up a network to share experiences or find new solutions to the big data challenge in the field of space observation. The European Commission has allocated €15 million to this project under Horizon 2020 and will encourage participation of citizens to scientific research: a phenomenon called citizen science.
Every day, modern telescopes and last-generation astronomic observatories issue huge and complex data flows. The filing and processing of these data represent an increasing challenge for physicists and astronomers operating in this sector. ASTERICS (Astronomy ESFRI & Research Infrastructure Cluster) is a project that, for the first time in Europe, brings together astronomers, astrophysicists, particle physicists, as well as European small-to medium-sized enterprises operating in this sector with the purpose of setting up an integrated network and finding common solutions to the great big data challenge. Funded by the European Commission under the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, the project involves two important Italian partners: the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).
“INFN contributes, in particular, to the management and analysis of data, in order to achieve an efficient information sharing between the communities of astrophysicists and particle physicists”, says Cristiano Bozza, head of the INFN project. INAF participation to ASTERICS is coordinated by Fabio Pasian from INAF Astromonic OBservatory of Trieste. This is an “acknowledgement of the skills acquired by researchers and technologists working at this institute in data management and processing, and of their constant engagement at an international level. The project will have an important and positive impact on the projects that are currently in their development phase”, explains the Italian researchers. The ASTERICS project will also contribute to support infrastructures that are currently being designed or under construction, including the European Gravitational Observatory (OGE), the Euclid space telescope of the European Space Agency (ESA) or the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), the telescope for optical/near-infrared range that is currently being built in Chile.
“The great astronomic projects of the XXI century are a technological challenge at all levels: from the development of instruments to the processing of the data collected”, explains Angelo Antonelli, INAF contact person under ASTERICS for software interoperability activities. “This is really an epochal challenge that scientists can face only if they bring together the resources they use, even in different projects, and completely share their experiences in data processing and in the development of software instruments dedicated to this purpose”.
Thanks to the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA), the international organization aimed to encourage integrated access to astronomic data, the ASTERICS project will allow citizens to have direct access to data from astronomic observation and physics. In this way, non-professionals will also contribute to data processing and carry out new scientific experiments, according to the citizen science concept that encourages participation of citizens to scientific research. The consortium of the ASTERICS project consists of 22 European institutions, under the coordination of ASTRON, Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.