23 April 2021

ALeRCE: nearly 120 international scientists participated in succesful workshop on astronomical broker

  • From the 13th to the 15th of April, with the participation of almost 120 international participants, the second part of the LSSTC Enabling Science 2021 Broker Workshop series was held, with a virtual seminar co-organized by ALeRCE, a Chilean astronomical broker led by the Center for Mathematic Modeling (CMM) at Universidad de Chile, Data Observatory (DO), the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics (MAS), and several institutions in Chile and the United States of America; as well as Fink, a French astronomical broker. ALeRCE became a part of DO’s project portfolio in September, 2020.

A well-balanced success that reunited nearly 120 international participants was registered for the LSSTC Enabling Science 2021 Broker Workshop series, this time co-organized by ALeRCE and Fink. The sessions, that were carried out between the 13th and the 15th of April, included more than 60 talks, tutorials, and demos that were focused on scientific cases and interfaces, along with a few debates regarding standardization.

The ALeRCE project, Automatic Learning for Rapid Classification and Events, is an initiative led by the Center for Mathematic Modeling (CMM) at Universidad de Chile and the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics (MAS), in alliance with Data Observatory (DO). ALeRCE seeks to position Chile as an international astronomical broker in charge of the artificial intelligence layer that will process the enormous volume of alerts streamed by gigantic telescopes such as the Vera Rubin Observatory, also known as LSST due to its monitoring program, in a sustainable manner over the next decade.

ALeRCE submitted a formal application in the recent month of December to become a community broker for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

The workshop audience was mainly composed of astronomers and future broker users, and the venue was successful in familiarizing the participants regarding astronomical alerts, a relatively new concept in astronomy, as well as demonstrating its application in different cases, and it concluded with discussions based on expectations and the potential impact that astronomical brokers could make in terms of data processing, interfaces, and data streams.

Francisco Förster, Principal Investigator for ALeRCE at CMM, and Associate Investigator at MAS, explains that the new generation of large telescopes are responsible for monitoring the sky to search for possible changes. When these telescopes detect a change in the sky, astronomical alerts are triggered in the form of large flows of data, with up to 10 million events per night in the case of the Vera C. Rubin telescope. “In order to help the astronomical community to identify the most interesting events in real time, a new layer of automatic classification and filtering is being developed, the astronomical brokers”, Förster specifies.

This meeting was the second part of two events. In the first part, which was carried out in the month of October, 2020, the requests from the community were addressed, and in this second part, the focus was on watching tutorials to demonstrate how the brokers can support the user community in conducting their science more efficiently. The tutorials were classified by scientific problems instead of by teams of developers, in order to emphasize the use cases and to better help the different user societies. It is important to highlight that ALeRCE is one of the pioneering brokers in applying artificial intelligence tools to this specific problem, with two automatic classifiers being applied since the year 2019, at a much earlier date than other international teams. ALeRCE was also the team that presented the highest amount of tutorials during this workshop, where all contributions were accepted, in the following subjects: how to use interfaces for conducting science, how to study objects of the solar system, objects in our galaxy, objects outside of our galaxy, how to organize the tracking of astronomical objects, and how to train and validate automatic classification systems.

For Camilo Valenzuela, Software Engineer at Data Observatory, “this workshop has been useful for making the ALeRCE project and its collaboration with DO visible at a worldwide level, by placing it in a strategic position for astronomy and other sciences, and has also been a focal point for bringing communities that are related to astronomy and Data Science together”.

Chile is facing a new era that will bring forth a true “tsunami” of data derived from astronomy with the use of state-of-the-art telescopes such as the Vera C. Rubin (LSST). Data Observatory’s ALeRCE project will generate tools to work with the constant night-time stream of data, which is inspiring for the community of astronomers, engineers, as well as doctoral and postdoctoral students.

Through this alliance with Data Observatory, AleRCE will be able to enter a new phase of development and expansion. Likewise, enhanced hybrid infrastructure will help to ensure data availability and an effective use on behalf of the astronomical community. AleRCE has over 2000 registered users in 50 countries, and this impact is expected to grow even further. The main users are located in Chile, the United States of America, and Japan.

ALeRCE has classified 1.4 million objects with its time series classifier, and 43 million objects with its stamp classifier.


The talks that were offered during both meetings are online on these playlists:

LSSTC Broker Workshop 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIt9dRGpt_w&list=PLFA428AMRhwCA1ayJug3b5pK6xdGIJnav

LSSTC Broker Workshop 2021: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFA428AMRhwADMFsNDC1dttTyIukPhADi

Slides and tutorials at:


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