LOFAR and HDF5: Towards a New Radio Data Standard
For decades now, scientiﬁc data volumes have experienced relentless, exponential growth. As a result, legacy astronomical data formats are straining under a burden not conceived when these formats were ﬁrst introduced. With future astronomical projects ensuring this trend, ASTRON and the LOFAR project are exploring the use of the Hierarchical Data Format, version 5 (HDF5), for LOFAR radio data encapsulation. Most of LOFARís standard data products will be stored using the HDF5 format. In addition, HDF5 analogues for traditional radio data structures such as visibility data and spectral image cubes are also being developed. The HDF5 libraries allow for the construction of distributed, entirely unbounded ﬁles. The nature of the HDF5 format further provides the ability to custom design a data encapsulation format, specifying hierarchies, content and attributes. The LOFAR project has designed several data formats that will accommodate and house all LOFAR data products, the primary styles and kinds of which are presented in this paper. With proper development and support, it is hoped that these data formats will be adopted by other astronomical projects as they, too, attempt to grapple with a future ﬁlled with mountains of data.
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