Rubin Observatory Partners with Google Cloud on Interim Data Facility

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First-ever cloud-based data platform will expand observatory’s capabilities and help scientific community unlock greater insights about our solar system.

Google Cloud today announced that the Vera C. Rubin Observatory has entered into a three-year agreement to host its Interim Data Facility (IDF) on the Google Cloud Platform. This collaboration ushers in a new era in large-scale scientific computing of astronomy workloads in the cloud. Until the telescope becomes operational in 2023, the IDF will collect astronomical data, or “pre-survey data,” to prepare the Rubin Operations team and science community for the advent of the full survey. The observatory is located on Cerro Pachón in the Coquimbo Region of Chile, due to its prime geographic location for astronomy observations and discovery.

This agreement marks the first time a cloud-based data facility has been used for an astronomy application of this magnitude. The Rubin IDF will process astronomical data collected by Rubin Observatory in its commissioning phase and make the data available to hundreds of users in the scientific community in advance of Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), a planned 10-year survey of the southern sky. A 500-petabyte set of data products and images, the LSST will be used to address the most critical questions about the universe’s structure, evolution, and the objects within it.

“We’re extremely pleased to work with Google Cloud on this project.” said Acting Rubin Observatory Operations Director Bob Blum. “By using an established and trusted cloud infrastructure, we’ve been able to stay on track at this point in our project to ensure we’ll be ready to deliver high-impact science to our community when the telescope, camera, and data system are ready in a few years. LSST is a single experiment that gathers data on the solar system, variable and exploding stars, the stars that make up our Milky Way galaxy, and the expansion of the universe itself.”

“The advancements we’re seeing in astronomy point to the growing appetite for data that can only be supported by the cloud’s scale and speed,” said Mike Daniels, vice president, Global Public Sector, Google Cloud. “By collaborating with Google Cloud, Rubin Observatory can build in more flexibility for the rising demand of astronomical data, while taking advantage of low-cost cloud data storage. This means Rubin Observatory can use more funds toward discoveries, instead of IT.”

Because the LSST dataset will be too large to be downloaded and stored locally, astronomers will access the data via the browser-based Rubin Science Platform. The same platform will be deployed on the Google Cloud-hosted IDF. With this level of access, the platform will provide the Rubin Observatory user community with astronomy data previews and the ability to experience LSST-like data in a real-time analysis environment. The IDF will also be used to deploy the Rubin Science pipelines, which will convert pixel data into a database of stars and galaxies. This will provide a first test of the pipelines at scale.

The Rubin Observatory will use Google Cloud’s Storage, Kubernetes Engine and Google Cloud Compute as the foundation for the IDF project. Google Workspace will enable productivity and collaboration among its scientists and team members. The Google Cloud IDF is also scalable in response to usage, which will be critical when members of the Rubin Science Community begin accessing the data facility in late 2021.

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PIO Contact:
Ranpal Gill
AURA/Rubin Observatory
+1 520 309 6195

Science Contact:
Zeljko Ivezic
University of Washington
+1 206 403 6132

Technical Contact:
William O’Mullane
AURA/Rubin Observatory