Compiling the information and making it available in a standard format using algorithms and artificial intelligence is the job done by the Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO), an astroinformatics platform that manages and analyzes the large amount of data coming from the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter ) telescope. matrix).
The initiative is led by Mauricio Solar, an academic in the Department of Computer Science of the Federico Santa María Technical University, has consolidated Chile’s contribution to the world community and has made fundamental data available for scientific research.
Consolidating ChiVO required years of research and work. According to Solar, “the first studies started in 2009.”
“Two years later we joined IVOA, which is the International Alliance of Virtual Observatories, and in 2015 we signed an agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Cassaca), interested in collaborating with our platform. Thanks to this alliance, we were able to buy a Data Center where we store all the information generated in the observatory, which at that time cost a million dollars and whose memory capacity was 1 petabyte, currently reaches 1.3 petabytes, i.e. 1,300 terabytes and is located on the San Joaquín Campus of our house of studies,” he highlighted.
The researcher added that the official launch of ChiVO took place in 2015 and a year later it was awarded a second Fondef which sought to transform the platform into an international service, “the idea was to develop tools and applications based on data to perform operations that astronomers are interested in, such as selecting or classifying galaxies, detecting astronomical objects or searching for elements within the data”.
In short, it was possible to strengthen the platform whose particularity and relevance is that “ChiVO is the only Virtual Observatory that makes ALMA data available to the international scientific community”.
When asked how information is collected from the observatory located in San Pedro de Atacama at the Data Center, Mauricio Solar explained that a tower of disks is brought to ALMA and left installed for a couple of days to extract all the data.
Regarding the format in which the data is collected, the director of ChiVO underlined that “in ALMA they work with their own format of radio astronomy data which represent very precise frequencies, to be clear you do not see an image, you see signals and this does not it is common for an optical astronomer.The problem is that to understand these frequencies, the data is compressed and an image is generated so that the human can somehow understand it.ChiVO’s job is to take the images and put them into a format compatible with the other virtual observatories of the world, which in total are 22”.
Thanks to data standardization, ‘astronomers have a kind of astronomical internet where they can search for exoplanets, stars or galaxies, just to name a few,’ said the researcher.
Within the plans of the ChiVO there is the possibility of disseminating the information obtained in schools. For this, Solar specified, it is necessary to give an educational download to the platform, on which “we are working with reports and theses, because what we have now is a bit technical”.
Another of the challenges that ChiVO has is to become a repository for other Chilean observers, ideally for some that are not yet operational.