The Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) was established in 1986 by the NRC with support from the Canadian Space Agency as 1 of 3 world-wide distribution centres for Hubble Space Telescope data. This web-based virtual observatory has grown to house some of the world's most important astronomical data collections, including those from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), the twin Gemini telescopes and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.
Operating out of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) near Victoria, BC, the CADC has emerged as one of the largest and most powerful astronomy data management centres in the world. It is one of the first astronomy data centres in the world to make the transition from "data host" to integrated systems provider.
Large-scale scientific computing infrastructure
The Canadian astronomy community surveys large areas of the sky to create huge, statistically powerful samples of stars, galaxies and quasars. Storing and processing such massive amounts of unique data requires state-of-the-art computing infrastructure and expertise. As the next generation of telescopes such as the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) come online in coming years, these high-performance computing needs will expand exponentially.
Users of CADC used to download data to process on their local machines. However, datasets are now too large (think Big Data) for researchers to work using this model. Enter the cloud model where the data and processing power co-exist and researchers upload their software to analyze the data.
Specialized astronomy and data management expertise
CADC is supported by an interdisciplinary team of astronomers and software developers that specialize in data mining, processing, distribution and transferring of very large astronomical datasets. Over the past 3 decades, these experts have developed sophisticated tools to support and enhance the research efforts of Canadian and international astronomers. Evolving to better serve its science community, CADC software and data support massive processing, visualization and analytics.
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Enabling the next astronomical discoveries
Delivering over a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of data to nearly 6,000 astronomers each year—60% of the entire global community—CADC data has helped safely guide the first close spacecraft encounter with Pluto and enabled the discovery of supermassive black holes that reveal secrets to the origin of the Universe. CADC's data collection, along with its world-leading cloud infrastructure for astronomy, provides a unique resource for data-intensive astrophysical research.
Cloud computing research partnerships
While developed as an astronomy data management platform, the CADC's expertise in data-intensive scientific computing is increasingly used to serve a much broader research community. The CADC continues to expand its role by partnering with the Canadian Advanced Network For Astronomical Research (CANFAR) and Compute Canada to integrate its services with cloud computing and storage technologies.
- CANFAR: Established through a partnership between the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the NRC, CANFAR adapts existing Canadian scientific computing facilities to make virtual collaborations more productive for university astronomers. Driving a move of all CADC data centre hardware assets to the national infrastructure for advanced computing supported by Compute Canada, CANFAR presents a shift towards a cloud ecosystem for data intensive astronomy.
- CADC-CANFAR-Compute Canada Transition Project (C3TP): This is a shared, co-development project in which Compute Canada will develop generic cloud and data services which can be used by a modified CANFAR system to provide specific functionality to CADC's community. The CADC will work with Compute Canada to design these generic services, while pushing all data storage infrastructure and support services into Compute Canada operations.