Observing Operations | Reviews | Survey Management

Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Review of Observing Systems and Survey Operations

Data Processing at Fermilab
Steve Kent
April 12, 2000


The data processing system at Fermilab receives data from the imager, the spectrographs, and the Photometric Telescope (PT) that are shipped on magnetic tape. The imager and PT data are fed through a series of pipelines that perform astrometric and photometric calibrations of the 2.5 m data, identify and catalog stars, galaxies, and quasars, select targets for spectroscopy, and provide plates designs for plate drilling. Interactions with APO operations occur in the following way:
  1. APO is provided with a monthly imaging observing plan.
  2. Plate design files are provided to UW and to APO at approximately 2 month intervals.
  3. Tapes are shipped to APO every morning after a night on which data were collected.
  4. Feedback is provided to indicate which areas of the sky or plates need reobserving because of data not meeting specification.
  5. Feedback is provided to signal problems in instruments, data collection programs, or observing procedures that affect the data quality.

Current Status

The mechanical aspects of data processing are largely in place. Data tapes are express shipped to Fermilab the critical data processing pipelines for the PT and 2.5 m imaging data are fully functional and are largely automated. Procedures exist for spooling input data, running jobs, collating and assessing the quality of the output data, writing the object catalogs to a database and bulk data to tape, and documenting the process. Similar procedures exist to handle the spectroscopic data, although they are less mature. The processing resources (CPU, disk, and tape) are in place and are adequate to handle the volume of data received to date. We are planning to upgrade the CPU and disk this fiscal year. The target selection and plate design pipelines are currently run interactively. Plate design files are distributed via a web site and are used by UW and APO. Processed data is being distributed routinely to the collaboration. To date we have processed of order 3 terabytes of raw imaging, data, designed over 200 plug plates, and processed 30 spectroscopic plates (12,000 spectra).

What's missing

Items 1, 2, and 3 below affect our ability to meet survey requirements. The remainder affect the overall operational efficiency of the survey in some way.
  1. The photometric calibrations have been troublesome, in particular various problems existed with detector contamination and inadequate telescope baffling that affected the accuracy of the calibration. We think the problems are solved, and some testing has been done that shows this, but addtional verification is needed. The details of the transfer of photometric calibrations from the PT to the 2.5 m will change and will change the photometric zero-points slightly.
  2. The target selection algorithms, while close to completion, are not absolutely finished and fully verified. The galaxy selection algorithm is the most advanced, and aside from possible shifts in the photometric zero-point, it is thought to be done the remaining work to be done is verification. The quasar algorithm is 90% complete, but much testing and running of the algorithms on a variety of data remain. It will be finalized by this summer. The remaining algorithms are in various states of completion but they have less impact because they are used for categories that not intended to be complete surveys.
  3. The criteria for acceptance or rejection of data are not fully defined, most importantly criteria on image quality. The current spec would cause rejection of virtually all data taken to date.
  4. The survey strategy process, which provides observing plans to APO, is still done by hand, and there is currently only crude feedback from the results of data processing to determine which areas of the sky are completed or in need of reobserving. Since we have so much new sky to observe, this is not a major problem at the moment, but will become so in a year.
  5. The goal for turning around the imaging data through plate design is 1 month, not the 2 being achieved at present. Since spectroscopic observing is not consuming plates at the maximum expected rate, the 2 month turnaround is not yet a serious problem. Minor formatting problems with data being delivered from APO need to be resolved. The planned computing hardware upgrade will quadruple the processing power, reducing the turnaround time.
  6. There are still planned enhancements to the photometric pipeline that might affect which objects are targeted.


Review of Observing Systems and Survey Operations
Apache Point Observatory
April 25-27, 2000

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