The SDSS data archive server

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The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Archive Server (DAS) provides public access to data files produced by the SDSS data reduction pipeline. This article discusses challenges in public distribution of data of this volume and complexity, and how the project addressed them. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)1 is an astronomical survey of covering roughly one quarter of the night sky. It contains images of this area, a catalog of almost 300 million objects detected in those images, and spectra of more than a million of these objects. The catalog of objects includes a variety of data on each ... continued below

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9 pages

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Neilsen, Eric H., Jr. & /Fermilab October 1, 2007.

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Description

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Archive Server (DAS) provides public access to data files produced by the SDSS data reduction pipeline. This article discusses challenges in public distribution of data of this volume and complexity, and how the project addressed them. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)1 is an astronomical survey of covering roughly one quarter of the night sky. It contains images of this area, a catalog of almost 300 million objects detected in those images, and spectra of more than a million of these objects. The catalog of objects includes a variety of data on each object. These data include not only basic information but also fit parameters for a variety of models, classifications by sophisticated object classification algorithms, statistical parameters, and more. If the survey contains the spectrum of an object, the catalog includes a variety of other parameters derived from its spectrum. Data processing and catalog generation, described more completely in the SDSS Early Data Release2 paper, consists of several stages: collection of imaging data, processing of imaging data, selection of spectroscopic targets from catalogs generated from the imaging data, collection of spectroscopic data, processing of spectroscopic data, and loading of processed data into a database. Each of these stages is itself a complex process. For example, the software that processes the imaging data determines and removes some instrumental signatures in the raw images to create 'corrected frames', models the point spread function, models and removes the sky background, detects objects, measures object positions, measures the radial profile and other morphological parameters for each object, measures the brightness of each object using a variety of methods, classifies the objects, calibrates the brightness measurements against survey standards, and produces a variety of quality assurance plots and diagnostic tables. The complexity of the spectroscopic data reduction pipeline is similar. Each pipeline deposits the results in a collection of files on disk. The Catalog Archive Server (CAS) provides an interface to a database of objects detected through the SDSS along with their properties and observational metadata. This serves the needs of most users, but some users require access to files produced by the pipelines. Some data, including the corrected frames (the pixel data itself corrected for instrumental signatures), the models for the point spread function, and an assortment of quality assurance plots, are not included in the database at all. Sometimes it is simply more convenient for a user to read data from existing files than to retrieve it using database queries. This is often the case, for example, when a user wants to download data a significant fraction of objects in the database. Users might need to perform analysis that requires more computing power than the CAS database servers can reasonably provide, and so need to download the data so that it can be analyzed with local resources. Users can derive observational parameters not measured by the standard SDSS pipeline from the corrected frames, metadata, and other data products, or simply use the output of tools with which they're familiar. The challenge in distributing these data is lies not in the distribution method itself, but in providing tools and support that allow users to find the data they need and interpret it properly. After introducing the data itself, this article describes how the DAS uses ubiquitous and well understood technologies to manage and distribute the data. It then discusses how it addresses the more difficult problem of helping the public find and use the data it contains, despite its complexity of its content and organization.

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9 pages

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  • Report No.: FERMILAB-PUB-07-583-CD
  • Grant Number: AC02-07CH11359
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 924532
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc899218

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  • October 1, 2007

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Dec. 8, 2016, 10:05 p.m.

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Neilsen, Eric H., Jr. & /Fermilab. The SDSS data archive server, article, October 1, 2007; Batavia, Illinois. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc899218/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.