Mid-term review news and meetings galore
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Newsletter Edition 4
September 2018

Welcome to the ASTERICS Project Newsletter

The DECS team will be producing this newsletter on a quarterly basis so we can share your news, resources, events and more with everyone involved in the ASTERICS project.

If you have anything you would like to appear in the next newsletter (December 2018) please send it to

ASTERICS All-Hands meeting Amsterdam

On 14 & 15 March 2018, ASTERICS organised an all-hands meeting in Amsterdam for its developers and contributors to discuss their work.

The meeting had an “All-Hands” structure to provide a place to share results, developments and issues with colleagues at different partner institutions who may work on similar issues to stimulate collaborations.
During the event, everyone actively interacted with several colleagues. Instead of long presentations, there was the chance for everyone to discuss their topic in small groups. In order to create multiple interest groups, each sessions started with short pitch talks of five minutes when one could promote what they wanted to discuss. The pitches were followed by active working sessions of one hour with the interested people. This gave everyone the opportunity to talk about different subjects in different settings, from code hacking to discussion of policies for facilitating multi-messenger astrophysics.
At the end of an intense first day of productive work, everyone was able to cool down during an all-hands session of ice sculpting. The participants were divided in small groups and presented with blocks of ice to transform into pieces of art. The theme chosen for the sculptures was “Multi Messenger” and each group created a different story to present the topic: from traditional telescopes to more modern messengers such as gravitational waves and even alien spaceships.
The project and the meeting enabled people with different backgrounds and environments to gather and learn while discussing. ASTERICS continues to show the success of multi-disciplinary interactions, with astronomers and developers from different fields finding common grounds and working together to achieve wonderful results.

Euclid – Challenge the Machines

Can you beat the machines? A new mobile optimised Zooniverse citizen science project developed in collaboration with the DECS team aims to answer this in the context of identifying gravitational lenses.

The Euclid telescope, due for launch in 2021, aims to understand why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating and determine the nature of the dark energy responsible for this. In the course of doing this Euclid is expected to resolve over 100,000 strong gravitational lens systems which offers an ideal opportunity to find rare lens configurations. 
The problem is that these new lenses need to be identified reliably and on a reasonable timescale. But the most reliable method, at this time, is one heroic human expert looking at the images by eye which is obviously very time consuming. In an effort to resolve this problem a variety of artificial intelligence algorithms (AIs) have been developed and tested against simulated data. They did well but there is still room for improvement so this latest citizen science experiment is asking the public to help train the machines to perform even better. It’s also setting them the challenge to identify rare lens configurations that the experts and AIs miss and potentially ‘beat the machines’!
Obviously, there are no images from Euclid yet so AIs are being trained, and tested against humans, using simulated images based on the Kilo-Degree Survey (KiDS). This ambitious survey is analysing 1500 square degrees of the southern hemisphere sky using the VLT Survey Telescope based at the ESO Paranal Observatory. Andrew Davies, an Open University, UK PhD student and researcher on the Challenge the Machines project says “We’ve based our simulated images on KiDS as it’s similar to the planned Euclid survey, in that it is undertaking a multi-band survey. Having this basis in reality allows the simulated images to look better, more appealing to the public, and hopefully very similar to the results we will get from Euclid in the future.” The AIs have already had a look at all of the data so now the project needs humans to look and the data and allow a comparison to be made between the two techniques.
The task for the humans (once they’ve been guided through a short tutorial) is to simply answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question ‘Do you think that this is a real lens?’. Of course, some are more obvious than others and the included ‘field guide’ gives more example of what are and are not considered lenses.
The experiment is currently under review on the Zooniverse platform but it is hoped that release will take place in the next few months and the battle of human vs machine can begin!

LOFAR rapidly responds to mysterious astronomical events

On Friday 6 July 2018 at 10:25 am (CEST), ASTRON’s Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) automatically responded to a transient astronomical event for the first time.

A new rapid response mode was recently installed, partially in the context of ASTERICS, at ASTRON’s Low Frequency Array (LOFAR). After successful tests the new mode was automatically triggered and appropriately responded to a transient astronomical event for the first time on July 6th. A bright burst of gamma-rays was detected by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory satellite and an urgent message was sent to ground-based observatories. Within a few minutes, LOFAR stopped what it was doing and started a new observation of the exploding astrophysical object. This LOFAR rapid response mode is important to help identify the sources of mysterious short-duration astronomical events.
More information and the full press release can be found here.

Upcoming Events

The most up to date source of information on these events, and others of interest to ASTERICS team members, can be found on

Supporting Astronomy & Astrophysics communities through re-use of open source software and integration frameworks

As a key outcome of its overall activities, the OBELICS WP has recently launched a Repository acting as a unique entry point for the OBELICS technical developments.

At the moment, the OBELICS Repository contains the main developments of T3.4 D-ANA and T3.3 D-INT.
  • The D-ANA Software Repository includes open source software libraries for statistically robust analysis of PetaByte-scale datasets in astronomy, including versions released in Deliverable 3.4 and 3.15. As the D-ANA task is ongoing, this Software Repository will be continuously updated through to the final milestone expected in April 2019.
  • The D-INT Services Repository collects several technologies enabling the integration of analysis software both developed internally within OBELICS and developed externally but still evaluated for their use in astroparticle physics and radio astronomy. The technologies deal specifically with A&A, user interface, and reproducibility of scientific results.
The OBELICS Repository will be further enriched with a dedicated section on Machine Learning collecting the ASTERICS latest development in this field.

CREDO – Involving the public in scientific research

The Cosmic Ray Extremely Distributed Observatory (CREDO) collaboration is an ongoing research project involving scientists and the public from around the world. The CREDO project certainly has an ambitious goal (determining what dark matter is) but the way it is working towards this goal is also novel and a source of inspiration and excitement.
The DECS team and CREDO have been working in collaboration throughout much of the ASTERICS project and in this time, CREDO has gone from strength to strength. In addition to the support it has received from ASTERICS it has been awarded a substantial grant from the Visegrad Fund allowing it to expand across Eastern Europe. It is hoped, and indeed essential for the success, that this expansion continues to extend across the rest of Europe and world-wide. 

The collaborations objectives relate to the hypothesis that the cascading products of the decay of supermassive particles (dark matter?) from the early universe can be detected impacting the Earth. May particle detectors are already in operation but they all focus on one small area. The important point here is that cascades of particles are predicted and these will span a large geographic area. Of course, the ideal would be a detector the size of the planet but instead CREDO is utilising the millions of small detectors spread across the planet and housed in smartphone cameras.
The particle impacts captured by the public using CREDO Detector are supplemented by ‘dark frames’ from astronomical observatories around the world and analysed by the public using the Private Particle Detective citizen science project. The result of this analysis is then fed into the Dark Universe Welcome citizen science project again for the public to take the lead in the identification of spatial and temporal patterns indicating the detection of a cascade of particles. From here the collaboration scientists take an active role in developing algorithms to identify and analyse cascades.

Though this project is still in its youth, and steps in the data collection and analysis chain are still under development, there has been a huge amount of public interest with CREDO taking part in a wide variety of science and cultural events and media activities. Art-science initiatives are in the planning and links with education providers are growing and strengthening.

To learn more about the CREDO collaboration and how to get involved please see:
Copyright © 2018 ASTERICS DECS (co Johanna Jarvis), All rights reserved.

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Horizon 2020
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation
ASTERICS is a project supported under grant agreement n.653477