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Grid computing puts astronomical data in context

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A grid computing project will help astronomers to draw more detailed results from the first comprehensive optical survey of the Milky Way, by allowing scientists to make cross-references to other existing astronomical catalogues more easily.

The survey, conducted by astronomers from the IPHAS consortium at the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma, includes data about 200 million unique objects. It should help scientists to understand better the demographics of our galaxy and calculate details of its 3D structure.

However, when performing this research it is important to match the new data to existing information about the galaxy. For this reason the data will also be published via the AstroGrid Virtual Observatory interface, which allows easy cross-referencing with other relevant data catalogues.

Dr Nic Walton of the University of Cambridge said: ‘Access through the AstroGrid Virtual Observatory opens up a full range of analysis options and should allow astronomers to make greater use of the information. IPHAS is the largest dataset published primarily through Virtual Observatory interfaces to date, and as such heralds the future of survey data mining.’