Aim of the Workshop
We are living in an era where large observational programs and surveys represent a very important tool to explore both the distant and the nearby Universe. In particular, large spectroscopic surveys, observing up to millions of targets, and providing vital information on a variety of stellar and galactic properties are the key tool for a comprehensive investigation of our Universe. Both Galactic and Extra-Galactic science are quickly transforming, thanks to the spectroscopic surveys that have already been carried out and are in progress, and further breakthroughs are expected in the next few years thanks to the new instrumentation that is coming on-line. In the more distant future (the E-ELT era) the development of new instrumentation to perform massive spectroscopy will be fundamental to follow-up and fully exploit the gigantic photometric surveys of the next decade, like Euclid and LSST.
This radical change provides several scientific opportunities, but also challenges. Large surveys need to be planned years before starting the observations, the sample of observed targets and the observation strategy are defined on the basis of complex simulations based on sophisticated astrophysical models, the preparation of the observations and the reduction of the raw data is carried out with automatic software. The most important changes are occurring in the approach to the data analysis and the scientific exploitation of the results. The analysis of the large datasets of the nowadays surveys can only be carried out with tools developed by teams including astronomers, physicists, computer scientists and statisticians, while the scientific exploitation of the data will be increasingly based on new techniques developed in the new emerging field of the “Big Data”. Last but not least, the large datasets need be saved within databases, specifically designed for spectroscopic surveys. To face these challenges, international communities are investing financial and human resources to create groups that are focused on the preparation, execution and scientific exploitation of photometric and spectroscopic surveys. Two considerable examples are the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit and the Oxford Heinze Centre for Astrophysical Survey, which are based at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the UK, respectively. The former is mostly focussed on the tools for the preparation and the execution of the surveys as well as the data archiving, while the latter is more science-oriented.
INAF researchers are involved in many of the most important galactic and extragalactic optical or near-infrared spectroscopic surveys, often with leading roles. INAF participation to these projects has benefited from the contribution of groups of researchers distributed in more than one or two institutes. Despite the fact that the same institutes/people are involved in several projects and that many skills and tools acquired in one project could be exploited in another one, the participation to these surveys has so far seen little coordination. The goal of this laboratory is to further enhance the already strong role of INAF in this rapidly expanding field by pursuing a more synergic approach to on-going and future surveys. In particular, we aim at a more efficient use of the existing skills and tools and to stimulate the development of new ones that can beneficial for the whole INAF community.
The proposed Laboratory, and therefore this workshop, does not focus on the instrumentation needed to carry out spectroscopic surveys, nor on the fantastic science that can be extracted from them. It is instead conceived to explore the possibility of sharing within the INAF community software tools and expertise that are extremely valuable when planning, carrying out, or analyze data from large optical or near-infrared spectroscopic surveys. The Lab would be the focal point where to collect and distribute these tools, showcase individual or group expertise relevant for spectroscopic surveys, and stimulate the creation of new tools under the guidance of the INAF spectroscopic community.
We propose to organize the workshop around 6 main topics of discussion. These topics are
- Requirements and needs from current and future spectroscopic surveys
- Data processing and data analysis pipelines
- Models and simulations
- Scientific databases
- Artificial Intelligence and new technologies
- Laboratory goals, timeline, and organization
Please notice that the timetable we have indicated for the Workshop is still extremely preliminary, and will be adjusted according to the level of interest and participation to the Workshop.