VISTA science exploitation

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. 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 Vista Data Flow System (VDFS) has been developed to allow an optimal ergonomic solution to this avalanche of data, through access to multi-Tbyte data storage systems, expert pipeline processing systems and science user support. Continuing development of the VDFS 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 further developing the infrastructure to analyse the data from these facilities. This standard grant proposal is a bid for resource to complete the full development of the VDFS and thereby provide fully integrated data processing support for the UK-led VISTA public surveys. This also includes the operational equipment necessary to carry out the data processing and store the data products. By building on the tremendous advances already made at CASU this will enable a cost-effective and optimal solution to the problem of converting the enormous quantities of VISTA data to fully calibrated science-ready products ripe for exploitation.


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

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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 This grant was awarded for completing the development of the Vista Data Flow System (VDFS). The VDFS has been developed to allow an optimal ergonomic solution to dealing with the avalanche of data (up to 1TB per night) generated on the VISTA survey telescope. Systematic pipeline processing, calibration and legacy curation of observational data are a fundamental requirement of an end-to-end integrated observing strategy and vital for exploiting the full science capabilities of this type of facility.

The success of this programme is manifest in the range of science exploitation lead by UK PIs that it is supporting. Members of 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 has been crucial for the success of the programme.
Exploitation Route The infrastructure required for optimal exploitation of astronomical survey data has lead to many innovative solutions to data processing and analysis problems which have wide applicability across all image processing domains. As an example, we have been carrying out a collaborative medical imaging research project helping develop analysis tools applicable to Tissue Micro Arrays used for research into cancer diagnostic markers.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other

Description Science exploitation of the VISTA survey facility was contingent on delivery and refinement of a high throughput data processing pipeline, the VISTA Data Flow System (VDFS). The VDFS has been used to optimally process and calibrate ALL science data taken on the VISTA survey telescope located at ESO's Paranal observatory. CASU are responsible for the development, delivery, operational deployment and maintenance of the processing pipelines that constitute the VDFS. All of the UK-lead VISTA public surveys are completely dependent on the VDFS data products for their own science programmes and also for fulfilling the requirement on the survey PIs to deliver science grade products back to ESO in exchange for further telescope time allocations.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Other
Impact Types Cultural

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