Galactic RainCloudS is a pioneering project in Europe in the use of computational infrastructures on the cloud for research on astronomy.

Cloud computing to reveal riddles of our galaxy

Galactic RainCloudS is a pioneering project in Europe for using cloud computing infrastructures for astronomy research.

The project was designed to show the scientific community the benefits of using resources in the cloud.

The project was designed to show the scientific community the benefits of using resources in the cloud.

The Milky Way and its satellite galaxies will be the experimental laboratory of this initiative.

The Milky Way and its satellite galaxies will be the experimental laboratory of this initiative.

The Galactic RainCloudS project, an initiative led by members of the Faculty of Physicsthe Institute of Cosmos Sciences (ICCU) and the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC), was awarded the first position under the Cloud Funding for Research call of the European project Open Clouds For Research Environments (OKRE

The project competed with 27 proposals from twelve countries across a wide range of research disciplines. This first edition of Cloud Funding For Research funds the use of commercial computational cloud resources for research. The project is counting on the collaboration of the private sector, and specifically of Pervasive Technologies, which brings experience in artificial intelligence and cloud computing; Google and the computing infrastructure of Google Cloud and Telefónica, which offers cloud resource management experience.

Professor Xavier Luri, Director of ICCUB and Principal Investigator of the project, emphasizes that “The Galactic RainCloudS project is a pioneer in Europe in the use of commercial cloud infrastructures for astronomy research, and stems from the will to exploit the benefits of cloud resource use. for the scientific community”.

The key of the project lies in interdisciplinarity: by combining the extraordinary amounts of data from the European Space Agency Gaia Satellite with the high computing power and flexibility of cloud infrastructures, and with the data mining techniques, the team from the University of Barcelona will explore the existing connections between previous galaxy collisions and star formation in a holistic way, a study in which the Milky Way and satellite galaxies will be an experimental laboratory. “Cloud computing is like renting powerful, custom computers, for a period of time, that allows us to make the necessary calculations to study the interaction between galaxies,” notes Mercè Romero, researcher at ICCUB.

The project also includes the development of a system to detect traces of previous collisions of small galaxies with the halo of our galaxy. Teresa Antoja, researcher at ICCUB, notes that “the existence of granularities in the galactic halos is a prediction of the current cosmological model of the formation of our universe: the active search for substructures of this type in the Gaia data may provide vital information about the history of the Milky Way and about the nature of dark matter”.

Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Computing

The participation of the private sector in this project demonstrates the close connection between research and business in the use of advanced technologies and their shared interests. “In Pervasive Technologies, we are happy to put our knowledge of artificial intelligence and cloud computing at the disposal of a pioneering research project. We will work on the best performance of the cloud infrastructures and artificial intelligence for this project,” said Rodolfo Lomascolo, CEO of Pervasive Technologies.

To be successful, the Galactic RainCloudS project must include big data infrastructures. “The Gaia satellite data hides the answers to many questions we want to solve, but we need the right tools to retrieve it,” said Roger Mor, data scientist at Pervasive Technologies and ICCUB contributor. He adds: “The available big data platforms in the commercial cloud and artificial intelligence services are fundamental tools to find out, for example, whether Sagittarius’ interaction with the Milky Way has caused the revival of star formation in our galaxy between 5 and 7 billion years. caused. suffered, as stated in some studies”.

Enrique González Lezana, chief cloud sales specialist at Telefónica Tech, says that “Telefónica has guided the University of Barcelona in defining and developing the Google Cloud architecture, which will host the required hypercomputing solution for the Galactic RainCloudS project” . “The expanded infrastructure — he adds — will enable big data processing and analysis in a flexible, scalable way, adapted to the required needs of the researchers at the University of Barcelona. Telefónica will work with the UB throughout the process to ensure the successful implementation of the project with teams specialized in Google Cloud services and technologies.”

The project started in May and will last for a year. “Galactic RainCLoudS is a necessary step in the research world’s transition towards efficient use of cloud computing resources. In this sense, we are pioneers in its use at the University of Barcelona and we hope that our experience will encourage its use. The needs of the research teams are becoming more specific and we are making an effort for this project to open the doors of commercial cloud computing in future projects for all research disciplines,” concludes Xavier Luri.



Cloud funding for research:

List of OCRE cloud service providers:

Images: ESA/Hubble & NASA, V. Antoniou

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