UH part of world’s largest digital sky survey

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mosaic of Pan-STARRS images

This image is a mosaic of sky photographs taken by the Pan-Pan-STARRS Observatory. (Credit: R. White, STScI, and the PS1 Science Consortium, Brooks Bays, UH)

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA), in conjunction with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, is releasing the second edition of data from Pan-STARRS—the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System—the world’s largest digital sky survey.

This second release contains more than 1.6 petabytes of data, making it the largest volume of astronomical information ever released. The amount of imaging data is equivalent to two billion selfies or 30,000 times the total text content of Wikipedia. The catalog data is 15 times the volume of the Library of Congress.

Pan-STARRS DR2 represents a vast quantity of astronomical data, with many great discoveries already unveiled,” said Heather Flewelling, IfA researcher and a key designer of the PS1 database. “These discoveries just barely scratch the surface of what is possible, however, and the astronomy community will now be able to dig deep, mine the data and find the astronomical treasures within that we have not even begun to imagine.”

The Pan-STARRS observatory consists of a 1.8-meter telescope equipped with a 1.4 billion pixel digital camera, located at the summit of Haleakalā on Maui. Conceived and developed by IfA, it embarked on a digital survey of the sky in visible and near-infrared light in May 2010.

Pan-STARRS was the first survey to observe the entire sky visible from Hawaiʻi multiple times in many colors of light. One of the survey’s goals was to identify moving, transient, and variable objects, including asteroids that could potentially threaten the Earth. The survey took approximately four years to complete, scanning the sky 12 times in five filters.

This second data release provides, for the first time, access to all of the individual exposures during different period of time. Astronomers and public users of the archive to search the full survey for high-energy explosive events in the cosmos, discover moving objects in our own solar system, and explore the time domain of the universe.

Learn more about Pan-STARRS digital release at the Institute for Astronomy.

December 19, 2016: Largest digital sky survey released by Pan-STARRS

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