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China's state observatory partners Alibaba on big data

THE National Astronomical Observation (NAO) on Thursday announced a partnership with Alibaba Group on astronomy research using big data.

The partnership, involving Alibaba's cloud computing unit Aliyun will result in the establishment of a big data research center, featuring an open online database of astronomical information that enables users to explore the cosmos via a virtual space observatory.

The center will also be able to support scientific research with cloud computing.

Yan Jun, head of NAO, said astronomy was one of the first disciplines to utilize data science. Big data opens up new opportunities for astronomical research but also features some challenges, in terms of data collection, transportation, storage, processing, analysis, and sharing, he said.

The volume of data collected through astronomical observation is expected to balloon to 250 trillion bytes a year. The NAO's partnership with Aliyun, whose strength lies in AI and big-scale computing, is expected to help upgrade China's capability in basic research regarding astronomy.

In a pilot project for the virtual space observatory, scientists will be able to upload and share data collected by the large sky area multi-object fibre spectroscopic telescope (LAMOST), also known as Guo Shoujing Telescope. LAMOST, a leading optical telescope project, went into operation in 2008 to collect high quality spectra, an important collection of data that helps astronomers concerned with celestial bodies' chemical composition, density, atmosphere and magnetism.  



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