From The Front Lines of SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016

I attended the SPIE meeting on Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation in Edinburgh, Scotland from June 26 through July 1, and I am sharing my views on the conference presentations. Approximately 2,000 astronomers, software engineers and instrumentation specialists crowded the Edinburgh International Conference Center (EICC) for the week.  You can see a detailed review of the meeting and a large collection of photographs on the SPIE web page. Parts of this post are based on the SPIE review.

As a software specialist, I gravitated towards the software presentations, which focused on software solutions to challenges in cyberinfrastructure. There were many interesting talks. Paul Hirst of Gemini described how building the next generation of the Gemini archive in the Amazon cloud is proving cost effective, given the high cost of power in Hawaii. Steve Berukoff’s team described how they are building a  Petascale data system for the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, under construction on Maui. Trey Roby described how his team was modernizing the underpinnings of the Firefly web-based presentation system by replacing the Google Web Toolkit with Javascript. Joerg Retzlaff discussed lessons learned in the Publication of science data products through the ESO archive. Tom McGlynn described the NASA archive model for the implementation and operation of the Virtual Observatory.

Tim Jenness described the challenges of handling large amounts of data and efforts of the LSST team to join the Astropy community leveraging and contributing to those software packages within the confines set by current funding limits and methodologies. Marco Molinaro  shared the results of his team’s EU-FP7 program, VIALACTEA, which provides an infrastructure for handling and manipulating diverse datasets into a more homogeneous database. I described work at the Keck Observatory Archive using R-tree indexing schemes to enable fast, more efficient searches of solar system objects.

My favorite talk was by Asher Baltzell, who discussed a cloud-based data reduction scheme applied to Magellan AO (MagAO) images and the resulting development of a free cyberinfrastructure for community use. The MagAO system featured prominently at the meeting. See the presentations in the MagAO blog at

See the SPIE review for excellent talks on gravitational waves, the operation of the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), and four NASA Science Technology Definition Teams presentations on submissions for the Decadal 2020 survey, among others.

The conference reconvenes in 2018 in Austin, Texas.

This entry was posted in astroinformatics, Astronomy, computer modeling, cyberinfrastructure, Data Management, databases, Gemini, Grid Computing, High performance computing, informatics, information sharing, programming, Scientific computing, software engineering, software maintenance, software sustainability, TMT, user communities, Virtual Observatory, visualization, W. M. Keck Observatory and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to From The Front Lines of SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016

  1. juandesant says:

    Thanks for the overview!

    Just one issue: the link to the SPIE review is broken, missing s (points to instead).


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