Data Processing Challenges for the Gaia Science Alerts System
Gaia is a European Space Agency (ESA) cornerstone mission due to launch late 2012. Its mission is to precisely survey approximately one billion stars to create an accurate three-dimensional map of our galaxy. Gaia’s scanning law will ensure that every position in the sky will on average be visited 85 times throughout the five-year mission and with the spacecraft’s detection threshold at a G-magnitude of 20, the compressed data volume received at the ground station will be approximately 18 GB/day. The Gaia Science Alerts (GSA) System, based in the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) at Cambridge University in the UK, aims to use the daily data stream from Gaia to look for and report on transient events both within and beyond our galaxy. The data stream will be processed in near real-time in order to provide rapid alerts to facilitate ground-based follow-up. Objects of interest include supernovae, microlensing events, GRB afterglows, M-dwarf flares, R CrB-type stars, classical and recurrent novae and unknown transients. This paper provides an overview of the Gaia Science Alerts System and highlights the data processing and storage challenges from data ingestion and event-detection to event classification and the eventual publication mechanism. The paper also addresses some of the proposed solutions to the challenges faced.
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