ASTR 597: Big Data in Astronomy: Introduction to Large Surveys


  • When: 3:30-5:00, Mon & Tue, Winter quarter 2014-2015
  • Where: PAB B356A (Physics-Astronomy Building, 3rd Floor)


While surveys have been with us since the dawn of science, the precision, depth, and the several orders of magnitude larger datasets of today are unprecedented. Today, major astronomical surveys are routinely collecting hundreds of terabytes of images, creating databases with billions of objects and several billion measurements. This shifts the focus from data collection to data mining, from examination of small samples to studies of entire populations, from identification by eye to automated algorithmic search. Large surveys astronomers are becoming data scientists.

The goal of this course is to prepare you for research with large survey data, teach you how to think about such data sets, and give you an overview of what is or soon will be available. We will:

  • Learn about how large observational data sets are changing astronomy
  • Introduce tools and techniques for working with large data sets (incl. access, analysis, and visualization)
  • Introduce and work hands-on with existing data sets (including SDSS, WISE, Kepler and others)
  • Learn about major upcoming surveys (including PanSTARRS, Gaia, and LSST)

While focused on astronomical surveys, the course may be suitable advanced undergraduates and non-majors interested in learning about working with large scientific data sets.