Astrolabe: Curating, linking, and computing astronomy's dark data

P. Bryan Heidorn, Gretchen R. Stahlman, Julie Steffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Where appropriate repositories are not available to support all relevant astronomical data products, data can fall into darkness: Unseen and unavailable for future reference and reuse. Some data in this category are legacy or old data, but newer data sets are also often uncurated and could remain dark. This paper provides a description of the design motivation and development of Astrolabe, a cyberinfrastructure project that addresses a set of community recommendations for locating and ensuring the long-term curation of dark or otherwise at-risk data and integrated computing. This paper also describes the outcomes of the series of community workshops that informed creation of Astrolabe. According to participants in these workshops, much astronomical dark data currently exist that are not curated elsewhere, as well as software that can only be executed by a few individuals and therefore becomes unusable because of changes in computing platforms. Astronomical research questions and challenges would be better addressed with integrated data and computational resources that fall outside the scope of existing observatory and space mission projects. As a solution, the design of the Astrolabe system is aimed at developing new resources for management of astronomical data. The project is based in CyVerse cyberinfrastructure technology and is a collaboration between the University of Arizona and the American Astronomical Society. Overall, the project aims to support open access to research data by leveraging existing cyberinfrastructure resources and promoting scientific discovery by making potentially useful data available to the astronomical community, in a computable format.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2018


  • astronomical databases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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