Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit 2009-14 (revision Aug 09)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Institute of Astronomy


Observational astronomy in the UK is in a strong position with the advent of the pioneering near-infrared (NIR) survey facilities of VISTA and WFCAM and the opportunities for detailed followup provided by membership of ESO. Significant advances in astronomy have always relied heavily on surveys of the sky from radio, through optical to X-ray wavelengths and the new era of deep NIR surveys is the latest stage in this progression. It is also one where the UK has both a substantial lead and the requisite expertise in the Cambridge and Edinburgh survey units to exploit this advance in wide field astronomy. Recognising the benefits of this, ESO are now also heavily committed to public surveys through the VST and VISTA telescopes and to wider exploitation of expertly processed and archived science data products. Members of the Cambridge Astronomy Survey Unit (CASU) have played a leading role in survey astronomy, not only by pioneering techniques to optimally extract knowledge from survey data, but also by taking a proactive role in exploiting this information to produce world-leading research. This synergy and feedback between data processing and exploitation is crucial. It has been a deliberate strategy that has provided the main strength and motivation of the group. In the modern era wide-field digital survey cameras produce enormous volumes of data that are way beyond the resource capacity and analysis skills of non-specialist astronomers. Systematic pipeline processing, calibration and legacy curation of observational data are a fundamental requirement of an end-to-end integrated observing strategy and a crucial component of a global Virtual Observatory. The CASU facility has been developed to allow an optimal ergonomic solution to this avalanche of data, through access to multi-Tbyte data storage systems and expert pipeline processing systems. Continuing development of the CASU processing and analysis pipelines will not only benefit the UK astronomy community now, but will also be relevant in the era of Extremely Large Telescopes and the radio Square Kilometer Array, by developing the infrastructure to analyse the data from these facilities. This rolling grant proposal builds on the tremendous advances already made and requests funding for CASU for the period 2008-2013 for the following activities: continued operation and maintenance of the WFCAM data processing and calibration pipeline; advanced development, enhancement, and operation of the UK VISTA pipelines; maintenance and upgrades for the VDFS ESO pipeline deliverables; operational support and pipeline processing for the UK-led VST public surveys in the southern hemisphere and the equivalent precursor surveys in the northern hemisphere; support to provide a range of science data products and services as a UK contribution to the global Virtual Observatory initiative; continuation of support for maintaining and developing the UK ground-based telescope archives; and a modest research component for the research-active members of the group.


10 25 50

publication icon
Afonso P (2011) GRB 050502B optical afterglow: a jet-break at high redshift in Astronomy & Astrophysics

publication icon
Banerji M (2013) Hyperluminous reddened broad-line quasars at z ~ 2 from the VISTA Hemisphere Survey and WISE all-sky survey in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

Description The primary goals of this proposal were to provide a cost effective solution to the processing and rapid delivery to the astronomical community of key science data products from ESO imaging survey telescopes. This involved the development and operational execution of advanced processing modules, and also updates to and maintenance of pipeline software, modules and documentation for delivery to ESO as part of the UK in-kind contribution.

These elements are crucial components for ensuring the full scientific exploitation of the surveys carried out on these telescopes, the majority of which are led by UK research teams, and all of which require world-class data products.
Exploitation Route Fully calibrated and optimally processed data are crucial ingredients for full science exploitation of observational data. The outputs from the CASU processing pipelines are world-class and provide the necessary inputs for a broad range of the subsequent astronomical research that is initiated by having these products available. These data products are used throughout the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other

Description The key objectives of the award were to enable CASU to provide cost effective and timely delivery of key data products from imaging surveys (WFCAM, VISTA, and VST) and to develop the infrastructure required to do the same for the next generation of multi-object spectroscopic surveys. These are essential requirements for full science exploitation. Both strands of these objectives have been fully realised.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other
Impact Types Cultural

Description MoU JACH 
Organisation Joint Astronomy Centre
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CASU undertakes data processing for all WFCAM data obtained on UKIRT
Collaborator Contribution CASU developed the data processing system and operates it on a 24/7 basis.
Impact The main beneficiary is the UKIDSS science consortium who have access to fully processed and calibrated near-infrared survey data.
Description Vista Data Flow System 
Organisation Royal Observatory Edinburgh
Department Wide Field Astronomy Unit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative venture to process and archive ALL data obtained on the VISTA telescope run by ESO in Paranal.
Collaborator Contribution CASU handle all the data processing and calibration.
Impact All of the VISTA public survey programmes are dependent on this collaboration.
Start Year 2009
Description Media interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Multiple interviews over the years with journalists, radio and
TV media.

Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
Description Talks to Astronomy Societies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talks to mainly amateur astronomy societies around the country. These are well-attended 50-100 participants and include much discussion and question/answer sessions.

Stimulates interest in science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013