Facilities for VIDA research

Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) III
Building on the legacy of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the SDSS-III Collaboration will carry out a program of four surveys on three scientific themes:

  • Dark energy and cosmological parameters
  • The structure, dynamics, and chemical evolution of the Milky Way
  • The architecture of planetary systems

Over a six year period (2008-2014), four surveys will exploit the unique wide-field spectroscopic capability of Apache Point Observatory's 2.5-meter telescope:

  • BOSS will measure the cosmic distance scale via clustering in the large-scale galaxy distribution and the Lyman-α forest
  • SEGUE-2 will map the structure, kinematics, and chemical evolution of the outer Milky Way disk and halo
  • APOGEE will use high-resolution infrared spectroscopy to see through the dust to the inner Galaxy
  • MARVELS will probe the population of giant planets via radial velocity monitoring of 11,000 stars

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST)
The 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its three-billion pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move rapidly: exploding supernovae, potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, and distant Kuiper Belt Objects. The LSST will provide unprecedented 3-dimensional maps of the mass distribution in the Universe, in addition to the traditional images of luminous stars and galaxies. These mass maps can be used to better understand the nature of the newly discovered and utterly mysterious Dark Energy that is driving the accelerating expansion of the Universe. The LSST will also provide a comprehensive census of our solar system, including potentially hazardous asteroids as small as 100 meters in size. Finally, LSST’s rapid scans of the sky will open the "time window", searching for faint bursts of light.

SMARTS: Research Telescopes for Time-Domain Astronomy
The Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS) Consortium operates four telescopes at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in the Chilean Andes. Vanderbilt's share on the SMARTS telescopes is approximately 70 nights per year. This access allows dedidated surveys of very large numbers of astrophysical objects over long periods of time, which has allows VIDA researchers to discover rare classes of stars that help us understand how stars form. SMARTS is also a primary location for training of graduate and undergraduate students in observational astronomy.

REDDnet: Enabling Data Intensive Science in the Wide Area
REDDnet (Research and Education Data Depot network) is an NSF-funded infrastructure project designed to provide a large distributed storage facility for data intensive collaboration among the nation's researchers and educators in a wide variety of application areas. Its mission is to provide "working storage" to help manage the logistics of moving and staging large amounts of data in the wide area network, e.g. among collaborating researchers who are either trying to move data from one collaborator (person or institution) to another or who want share large data sets for limited periods of time (ranging from a few hours to a few months) while they work on it.

ACCRE High-Performance Computing Center
The Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education (ACCRE) at Vanderbilt is central to VIDA's work. Key features of ACCRE for VIDA research include:

  • 1500 nodes: 2 GHz processors, 2 Gb memory
  • 1.5 Tb/s bandwidth, 10 Gb/s intake capability (new record)
  • Data-intensive applications: ½ Pb work space, 200 Tb long-term data storage, including L-Store capability in the near future
  • User support (help with parallelizing code, etc)
  • Special graduate course in high-performance computing

TeraGrid is a NSF-funded open computational resource that consists of supercomputers at eleven partner sites: Indiana University, the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the National Institute for Computational Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Purdue University, San Diego Supercomputer Center, Texas Advanced Computing Center, and University of Chicago/Argonne National Laboratory. Currently, TeraGrid resources include more than 750 teraflops of computing capability and more than 30 petabytes of online and archival data storage, with rapid access and retrieval over high-performance networks. TeraGrid computing time has been awarded to VIDA researchers for the LasDamas project.

Hereford Arizona Observatory
The Hereford Arizona Observatory (G95) consists of 11-inch Celestron and 14-inch Meade telescopes that are fork-mounted on equatorial wedges. Buried cables allow an office computer to control the telescopes and dome movement for unattended, all-night observing sessions. The observatory is owned and operated by Mr. Bruce Gary, an amateur astronomy with years of experience and active involvement in the American Association of Variable Star Observers. An example of the involvement of "citizen scientists" in mission-critical aspects of ground-breaking science, Mr. Gary is a core part of the VIDA search for exoplanets, with an impressive capability of photometry at the sub-millimagnitude level.