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The skies of Chile have intrigued stargazers for centuries, and its cloudless nights continue to offer the best conditions for astronomical research.
According to certain statistics, more than half of the world’s new large astronomical devices have been built in Chile in the most recent 20 years. This includes the most-powerful terrestrial astronomical device ever seen in human history — the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA). It is located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. ALMA is considered the most invested ground telescope in active service in the world. It was officially put into use in March 2013. So far, a vast amount of night image data has been collected.
The intentof ALMA is not only used for observation, but also the amazing quantities of astronomical data that this telescope collects and analyzes is sometimes referred to as the gospel of the entire astronomical world.
The ALMA telescope array has been built collaboratively by several institutions from Europe, the United States, and East Asia and its data product services are provided by the three so-called ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs) to their astronomers as a means to carry out frontier research. However, there is no such center locally in Chile. The Chinese Academy of Sciences South America Center for Astronomy (CASSACA), which aims to enable and enhance the communications and collaborations between Chinese and Chilean scientists, recognizing there is a keen demand to have a computing and storage facility to serve more astronomers interested in ALMA’s data processing, management and mining. The new data center must meet the following requirements:
Fast construction: Completion of the data center construction should be within two months and support the rapid rollout of astronomy center research services.
High standards: The data center needs to meets the international advanced design standards and provide greener energy-savings.
Flexible migration: The solution should allow flexible migration after the related engineering of the astronomy center is completed, without affecting the normal operations of existing research.
CASSACA collaborates with Huawei and UTFSM to build the astronomical data center to store and analyze mass quantities of radio data from the universe. The multimillion-dollar data center has 0.7 PetaBytes (PB) of storage capability and can record 12 years of HD video images. That is, all of the data generated in the next nine years from ALMA can be stored with this system.
Huawei provides consulting and customization services for data center equipment rooms. The data center uses Huawei’s prefabricated all-in-one data center solution to meet customers’ requirements.
The data center is deployed within two months. This solution provides large-quantity data processing functions such as broadband transmission, mass storage, flexible scalability, and high-performance computing, ensuring the smooth development of the astronomical center research project. The prefabricated modular design ensures that the data center can be flexibly migrated after the project is completed and the initial investment is fully utilized. The data center meets Tier III design and ensures high reliability. In 2015, the data center experienced the ultimate challenge with a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, yet the infrastructure and services were not affected. In response to the national environmental protection appeal, the data center reduces energy consumption to improve the image of the enterprise.
The multimillion-dollar data center has turned Chile into virtually a holy place for astronomical research using ALMA data.
“Without this data center, it would be an unworkable process, either for the time it takes for the data transmission process, or the volumes of the files, which can be as large as 200 GB,” Professor Mauricio Solar, from the University Federico Santa María (USM) told Revista Gerencia. It is worth mentioning that the operations of Zhongzhi Astronomical Data Center will promote the science and technology development of USM, which is expected to take the leading role of the world’s astronomical development by sharing its astronomical observation data.
The data center, recognized as the symbolic gospel for astronomers and the whole astronomical world: That is, ALMA has a 12-month proprietary data policy, after which the data is released into public domain. The idea is that, in the near future, institutions and people from different countries in South America can access the public ALMA data archive with the help of this data center. This means that the glamour and fascination of bright stars will have the opportunity to be spread to all corners of the world.