CWI spin-off company Dataspex offers solutions to big data challenges in astronomy

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) has launched a new spin-off: Dataspex. The new company offers big data management solutions to astronomers.

Publication date
12 Mar 2019

Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands, has launched a new spin-off: Dataspex. The new company offers big data management solutions to astronomers.

Astronomy is undergoing a major data explosion, as observations are automated, telescopes observe a larger area of the night sky and measurements are becoming more and more detailed. To deal with the enormous influx  of data, the analysis of these data is increasingly automated. 

Dataspex offers astronomers an efficient solution for data processing and analysis. As the data come in, they are saved in a database system. Dataspex offers the tools to rapidly do a search and analysis in this system. Scientists can indicate exactly what they want to see from the collected data, for example, stars which have appeared over the last week, or all the data from light sources with a specific luminosity. With the Dataspex solutions, the system provides an answer in only a short amount of time.  

Search for gravitational wave sources
“Our first project is a collaboration with scientists from Radboud University in Nijmegen”, says Dataspex CEO Bart Scheers. "They are leading an international consortium of universities that carries out research with the MeerLICHT and BlackGEM telescopes. When heavy objects such as neutron stars collide, this causes a ripple in spacetime. Such a ripple, which will travel through the universe with the speed of light, is called a gravitational wave. “A recent, major development in astronomy is that we can now measure these gravitational waves on earth. When that happens, the astronomers look at the place where the collision took place – not just now, but also in the data that was stored before. Shortly after a collision, the surrounding area will briefly light up.  In Nijmegen, they are looking for that brief moment of illumination: the optical counterpart of the gravitational wave.”

This research entails a huge amount of data: because it is difficult to tell exactly where the collision took place, scientists have to observe a large area of the sky. Scheers: “Dataspex considers the backend systems of the telescopes, connects these to our database system, and offers the tools to do the analysis quickly and efficiently. We offer both the optimal hardware configuration, and the right software solutions.”

More information
Dataspex was founded by CWI researchers Bart Scheers and Arjen de Rijke, in collaboration with CWI spin-off MonetDB. Dataspex is the fourth spin-off based on CWI’s MonetDB database system, after Data Distilleries (1995), Vectorwise (2008), and MonetDB Solutions (2013).

E: bartscheers[at], I:

Video about CWI's Database Architectures group