NetApp supports the European Space Agency to create first 3D map of the universe

The European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation shaping Europe’s space capability, is working with data management experts NetApp to help store the vast amount of data collected today and over the past 30 years of space exploration. The data stored comes from the ESA’s solar system missions and from the ESA’s fleet of cosmic observers.

Working with NetApp technology, ESA has created the science archives portal where the vast amounts of scientific data obtained by its space science missions are stored and made freely accessible online to the global scientific community and in general to anybody interested. Every month the portal receives around 18,000 visits. This portal, holding petabytes of data, represents a ‘library of the universe,’ as a free, expert resource, helping scientists to shed light on and find answers to the mysteries of the universe.

ESA conducts exploration missions, monitoring the solar system, the universe, including our own planet, and then shares its findings with scientists and other customers worldwide, for analysis and as the basis for further exploration. This data is used, not only to map other galaxies, but also used for example to map the devastation caused to the Earth’s surface by natural disasters or human warfare, for example to help emergency services track survivors.

Back in 2013, ESA launched Gaia, a space astrometry mission to build the largest precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy, by surveying nearly two billion objects. These 2 billion objects represent only 1% of the stars in the Milky Way. This project observes and records approximately 70 million stars every day and produces 10,000 times more data than previous missions, up to 1 petabyte by the end of the mission, which is adding to the massive ESA space science archives, which size continues to grow.

Rubén Álvarez Timón, ESA's Science and Operations IT manager: “Our community, the world’s scientists, need to be able to access the data contained in our science archives in a swift and simple way, and to be able to get the best value from that data. These experts rely on our archives for their scientific research, discoveries and publication of scientific articles. This is a great example of how technology and science working together have been able to create our marvellous digital library of the universe.”

Piero Gallucci as Vice President and General Manager, UK & Ireland said: “In order to manage and incorporate the large amount of data generated by each ESA space mission, each exploration, and mapping and monitoring of current and historic data, and share it with scientists worldwide, ESA requires a simple, secure, reliable and accessible data management system and expertise. ESA leverages NetApp’s hybrid and flash storage solutions and NetApp ONTAP operating system to ensure data accessibility with as a service approach. In addition, these allow ESA to incorporate the data from each new mission that increasingly demand more data management. “

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