When the meteor and the 1PB database collide
Craters? No, ginormous amounts of celestial information in need of storage
Computerworld - Our fascination with the prospect of asteroids smashing into the Earth is as deep as the craters that can result from such cosmic fireballs. Think of all the movies Hollywood has made, from little-seen B flicks such as A Fire in the Sky to campy cult classics such as Night of the Comet to scientifically shaky blockbusters such as Meteor and Armageddon.
The 1990s was also awash with news of rocky passersby such as Comet Hale-Bopp and Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which unleashed fragments up to two kilometers wide upon Jupiter in 1994.
Once dismissed as the province of fringe cult groups, the fear of what astronomers call "impact events" turns out, thanks to improved satellite and telescopic monitoring, to be not so irrational after all.
Pan-STARRS on patrol
The latest and most ambitious to detect 'near-Earth objects' (NEO) is the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS.
A joint venture of the University of Hawaii, a number of other schools and the U.S. Air Force, Pan-STARRS is today testing a telescope mounted with the finest digital camera in existence, which boasts a resolution of 1.4 billion pixels.
When Pan-STARRS is fully operational several years from now, it will have four telescopes, each with a 1.4-gigapixel camera.
That will give Pan-STARRS a wider, faster and more-powerful view into space, and will enable it to meet its mandate of tracking virtually all NEOs larger than 300 meters in diameter as well as many smaller NEOs.
It will have plenty to see. About once a year, an asteroid of five to 10 meters in diameter explodes in the Earth's upper atmosphere, releasing as much energy as the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. And if one slips through, it can cause a lot of damage -- even if it's not a big one.
The asteroid behind 1908's Tunguska Event was only about 50 meters in diameter, but it created an explosion equivalent to 10 to 15 megatons of TNT (about 1,000 times the Hiroshima bomb), knocking over an estimated 80 million trees in Siberia and causing an earthquake that's estimated to have measured a 5.0 on the Richter scale (which had not yet been invented at that time). And we are due for another even like that within 200 years, according to the late astronomer Eugene Shoemaker.
With just a single telescope, Pan-STARRS already generates 1.4 terabytes of raw image data nightly. Compressing, storing and crunching that data in an economical fashion turns out to be a feat of database engineering as impressive as the collection process.
Rather than turning to an expensive supercomputer equipped with hundreds or thousands of processors, Pan-STARRS will use a cluster of 50 PC servers connected to 1.1 petabytes of disk storage via fast Infiniband networking gear, according to Alex Szalay, a physics and astronomy professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the architects of Pan-STARRS' database.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Mobile Applications Case Study: 8 Billion Transactions a Day The story documents how the online brokerage company tradeMONSTER created a custom mobile app and the success gleaned from this initiative. Also covered...
- The Case for Mobile Apps Today's mobile apps turn handheld devices into e-book readers, portable navigation systems, digital wallets and more. And for organizations with mobile workers, they...
- Mobile Expense Management--Picking up the Money on the Ground Integrating and managing mobility expenses across multiple carriers can generate savings and improve organizational decision making.
- Partners in Mobile Device Management: AirWatch & CDW When it comes to Mobile Device Management, it's not just what you know. It's who you know. That's why CDW partners with industry...
- Live Webcast Best Practices for the Hyperconverged Enterprise Network To the Age of Constant Connectivity and Information overload
- Live Webcast Unmasking the Differences between Consumer and Enterprise File Sync & Share The consumerization of IT combined with the rapid pace of the modern mobile workplace is forcing enterprise IT teams to evaluate file sync...
- Live Webcast Government Agency Webifies Outdated COBOL Applications Let this CTO tell you how his agency converted 1980s-era green screens into an e-filing portal for the 100,000 cases handled each year...
- Mobile Apps and Devices Slash Customer Cycle Time Consolidated Engineering Laboratories' field employees used to collect data on triplicate forms that were sometimes hard to read and difficult to manage. After...
- Testimonial: Cystic Fibrosis Trust Peter Hawkins, the Head of IT for Cystic Fibrosis Trust, discusses the role CommVault's Simpana software platform plays in improving the company's information... All Applications White Papers | Webcasts