Astronomical data: from small and beautiful to big and overwhelming

A spotlight on South African astronomy and big data.


This is an interactive public exhibition that will be accompanied by associated public, teacher, learner, student and scout based workshops and materials. The main aim of the exhibition and associated activities is to raise awareness about the contributions of astronomy to South Africa and to the world, as well as to illuminate the history of and the exciting future for astronomical “big data”.

The exhibition will trace and highlight the progression from the old methods of data collection including plates and instruments from the 1800s, to the modern Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) data together with SKA Big Data initiatives. The exhibition will demonstrate how scientists piece together the puzzle of the Universe. It will consist of a collection of existing models and materials currently based at SAAO, SKA (SA) and Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory, together with the construction and fabrication of four major new interactive exhibits to be based on modern astronomy data collection methods.

The Institute of Data Intensive Astronomy will contribute the data story for future astronomy by demonstrating cloud technologies for dealing with modern massive data sets. An interactive experience will allow the public to engage with real time visualizations of actual massive data-sets that exist “out there” in the cloud.