Exploring the Final Frontier

This week's Cybera project update takes a look at the cosmos. Space observational data is the focus of two of our projects: the Canadian Space Science Data Portal (CSSDP) and the Cloud-Enabled Space Weather Platform (CESWP). However, as of Monday, February 28, Cybera's collaboration with the CSSDP has drawn to a close.

The CSSDP project, created to enable and simplify access to space science data and tools, has over the past two years enhanced the space portal for real-time research and data analysis. This in turn has helped enlighten and advance research within the Canadian space science community. Over the last month, the portal has undergone several upgrades, including the installation of a new search wizard to allow for easier searching and downloading of data. The search tool also enables asynchronous workflow run requests for viewing of results long after the work has been completed.

Cybera's starry-eyes will now focus more on the second stage of CSSDP —CESWP —€” which puts more emphasis on the modelling and sharing of space weather data. Several University of Alberta scientists have already begun working in the CESWP cloud, which is connected to members in Ontario, New Brunswick and California.

A University of Waterloo working group will also be using CESWP to aid with its space weather forecasting. Hans De Sterck, Associate Professor in Computational Mathematics and Scientific Computing at Waterloo, has created the Solar Drivers of Space Weather group to apply CESWP's forecasting techniques to solar wind, or "coronal mass ejection" simulations. These light and magnetic disruptions, as well as being responsible for the beautiful aurora borealis lights, can damage radio, satellite and other electrical transmissions, both in space and on the ground. The insights gained from this group's investigation will aid the Canadian GeoSpace Monitoring program —€” one of the world's top research programs in solar-terrestrial observation, data assimilation and modelling.

I'm also happy to report that within Cybera, individual staff members are making their own mark on the space data realm. Everett Toews, our Senior Developer for CESWP, has recently had a paper accepted to the 33rd International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) in Honolulu, Hawaii (lucky duck!). Entitled, An Internationally Distributed Cloud for Science: The Cloud-Enabled Space Weather Platform, Everett's paper explores the software platforms chosen to connect space weather physicists and their data through CESWP, and how those programming decisions have held up.

In addition, Everett also published an article about CESWP in the February 14, 2011 issue of HPC in the Cloud, an online newsletter dedicated to international cloud computing. It's good to see Cybera employees not only facilitating collaboration and communication between researchers, but actively engaging in the research itself!

How important is space weather tracking? Well, considering the impact that solar flares can have on astronauts, satellites, GPS devices, ground-based electrical systems and communications distribution across the globe, the answer is: a lot! Have your say on the need for improved space weather collection, or what areas need further focus, by leaving a comment below.