Astrolabe: Recovering Dark Data in Astronomy

The School of Information, the Department of Astronomy, the University Libraries, the American Astronomical Society and CyVerse are working to create a data hub for previously uncurated astronomical data.

Astronomy data represent a curation challenge for information managers, as well as for research and computational astronomers. Extracting knowledge from these heterogeneous and complex datasets is particularly complicated and requires both interdisciplinary and domain expertise to accomplish true curation, with an overall goal of facilitating reproducible science through discoverability and persistence. A set of researchers and professional staff at the University of Arizona held several meetings during the Spring of 2015 about astronomy data and the role of the University in curation of that data. The group decided that it was critical to obtain a broader consensus on the needs of the community. With assistance from a Start for Success grant from the University of Arizona's Office of Research and Discovery and funding from the American Astronomical Society (AAS), a workshop was held in early July 2015. The 28 participants plus 4 organizers representing University researchers as well as astronomical facilities and a scholarly society verified that there is indeed a problem with the long term curation of some astronomical data that are not associated with major facilities, and that a repository or “data hub” with the correct functionality could facilitate research and the preservation and use of astronomy data. The workshop members also identified a set of next steps including the identification of the most likely data and metadata to be included in the Hub. The participants also helped to identify a set of additional information to enable construction of the Astrolabe repository. This included significant datasets that do not currently have sufficient preservation and dissemination infrastructure, such as data associated with journal publications, and particularly the broader context of the data beyond that directly published in the journals.  They recommended that a set of grant proposal should be developed to ensure community buy-in and participation. Astrolabe is now being developed in an agile, incremental manner that will allow consistent community growth from the early stages of the project, and building on existing CyVerse infrastructure (

July 11-12, 2016 Astrolabe Workshop, Tucson AZ

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