After four years and scanning the sky 12 times (each through five filters), the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, released data today from the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) — the world’s largest digital sky survey.

The data comprises three billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects, and contains two petabytes of data, which is equivalent to one billion selfies, or one hundred times the total content of Wikipedia.

With Moore Foundation support, the Space Telescope Science Institute and John Hopkins University are collaborating on a long-term vision to maintain world-class leadership in public data archives in the era of astronomical big data. A grant to the organizations was essential to the data being made publicly available, which aligns with a goal of the foundation to make science data more accessible. This funding will enable STScI and Johns Hopkins University to provide the storage hardware, the computers that handle the database queries, and the user-friendly interfaces to access the data. The roll-out is being done in two stages. Today’s release is the “Static Sky,” which is the average of each of those individual epochs. In 2017, the second set of data will be released, providing a catalog that gives the information and images for each individual epoch.

“The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies,” said Dr. Ken Chambers, director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. “Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from Near Earth Objects and Kuiper Belt Objects in the Solar System to lonely planets between the stars; it has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe.”

“With this release we anticipate that scientists — as well as students and even casual users — around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS,” Chambers added.

Read the full story from STScI here.


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