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News Bits 2014

DECEMBER 2014


The Target supported Monk system will help in identifying the authors of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls

Monday, December 15, 2014

Prof. Mladen Popovic from the RUG's Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies won a prestigious 1.5 million euro ERC grant last week. The funding will support a 5-year collaboration between Popovic, the Target partner Prof. Lambert Schomaker and Hans van der Plicht from the Center for Isotope Research to identify the writers of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls collection that was on display for the first time in the country at the Drenth museum in Assen last summer. The team will combine carbon dating, paleography and the advanced text and image recognition capabilities of the Monk system to learn when and who was involved in the writing of the Dead Sea Scroll, something that has remained a mystery till now. Read the news release on the university website to learn more about the project.

A major E-ELT milestone achieved

Wednesday, December 4, 2014

Astronomers across the world might have just received their first present for this holiday season. The council of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced today that they have given green light for the full construction of E-ELT - the European Extremely Large Telescope. The E-ELT is dubbed "the world's largest eye on the sky" and for good reasons. The telescope will have a 39-m aperture, and when constructed, will peak deeper and with greater detail into the sky than any other telescope. The E-ELT will help astronomers push further the boundaries of our knowledge in diverse areas from solar physics and planetary science to galaxy evolution and cosmology. Our partner, OmegaCEN certainly has a reason to celebrate. The E-ELT is expected to be equipped with two instruments ( MICADO and HARMONI) at first light and the group is leading the design of the data management for one of them (MICADO). Read the official news release by ESO>>

NOVEMBER 2014


Center for Information Technology (CIT) celebrates 50 years of digital innovation

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Wednesday, Nov 12 marked half a century since our partner institution, the Center for Information Technology (CIT) was founded at the University of Groningen to develop and maintain the digital infrastructure and services required to support progress and boost innovation in research, education and university governance. Established at a time when the fastest computer in the world executed 3 million operations per second, and Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny created the BASIC programming language at Dartmouth College, the center and the people who breathed life into it, have seen the greatest revolution in the history of information technology. To celebrate its achievements in the last 50 years, the CIT held a series of public and private events last week, the biggest of which was the open day at the 3D fulldome theater Infoversum in Groningen. The exhibition space at the Infoversum was filled with 30 booths each representing different ongoing services, projects and collaborative initiatives that collectively make the center one of the largest academic computing centers in the Netherlands. The CIT has also created an interactive website (available only in Dutch) that let's you browse through the its history.

From Milky Way dynamics to gender balance in academia

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Last week on Tuesday, the grand hall of the Academy building was packed with friends, family and colleagues who came to hear the inaugural lecture of now full professor Amina Helmi from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute. Prof. Helmi has focused her research career on studying the dymanics and evolution of our home galaxy Milky Way and she is one of the lead investigators in the Gaia mission, expected to observe a billion stars within the galaxy. Helmi and her international group are already busy studying initial data from Gaia . However, the excitement and enthusiasm of exploring our celestial neinghourhoods have not let Helmi forget about important issues happening right here on Earth. During her inaugural lecture she called the attention of the academic community to the fact of descreasing numbers of female scientists occupying high-rank positions. Read the full review of Prof. Helmi's inaugural lecture on the ScienceLinx website>>

The MUSE instrument on the VLT telescope captures galactic crash in unprecedented detail

Monday, November 10th, 2014

The European Southern Observatory sent our today a press release describing exciting new observations made with the MUSE instrument (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) newly mounted on the VLT telescope in Chile. MUSE was used to observe a galaxy as it merged into a large galaxy cluster. The spectra obtained by the instrument provided clues as to what happens to the gas in a galaxy when it becomes part of a cluster and how and why star formation within the galaxy ceases in the process. Target plays a major role in managing and delivering the scientific data from MUSE to the astronomical community around the world. Read the official press release by ESO. Read more about the Target involvement in MUSE.

OCTOBER 2014


The Target project showcased at the first regional CAREN conference in Kazakhstan

Monday, October 6st, 2014

The Central Asian Research and Education Networks (CAREN) and the EU held their very first conference to mark the successes and discuss the future of a long-term initiative to improve the ICT infrastructure for science and education in the region and connect it to the larger pan-European GEANT network. The conference brought together ICT experts, researchers, educators, students, government officials and policy makers from Central Asia and Europe to presented the latest project developments and laid down the foundations for the future expansion of a dedicated e-infrastructure for science and education. Target member, Iva Kostadinova, was invited to presented a keynote talk on the role of ICT in facilitating collaborative, international science projects highlighting increasing role ICT plays in the way science (and education) are conducted across disciplines.

Big Data secrets revealed under the Infoversum dome

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

A vibrant discussion on the topic of Big Data took place on September 25th at the 3D fulldome theater Infoversum during a knowledge cafe organized by Studium Generale and Target. The moderator Alex van den Berg skilfully juggled between the panel and the audience who shot numerous questions at the three Big Data experts - Target coordinator, prof. Edwin Valentijn, IBM deep computing specialist Rick Koopman and ASTRON software scientists Chris Broekema. More than 100 people attended the knowledge cafe and went home afterward with a clearer definition of what Big Data is, what the role of Big Data is in stirring the future of science, technology, and politics, how Big Data can influence our personal life and what are the risks in terms of privacy and ethics.

SEPTEMBER 2014


MUSE-WISE backup database switch completed successfully

Tuesday, Sept 16nd, 2014

The OmegaCEN group at Target is heavily involved in the data handling of data generated from the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument mounted on the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) high up in the mountains of Paranal, Chile. As scientific data collection from MUSE commenced last week, our database specialists and their partners at Potsdam, Germany successfully completed a swap between the MUSE-WISE database in Groningen and its backup in Potsdam. When one of the databases is down, the other one takes over until the master database is up again. The existence of two synchronized databases significantly increases the robustness of the data management system and reduces downtime.

The LOFAR long-term archive ready to ingest the next cycle of data from the world's best radio telescope

Tuesday, Sept 16nd, 2014

The LOFAR telescope is ready to collect the next series of faint signals from the dawn of the Universe, aiding scientists in understanding the mechanisms that created the very first stars and galaxy a little less than a billion years after the Big Bang. LOFAR IT specialists and members of the Target team have performed upgrades and testing of the Target hardware and software systems dedicated to the long-term archive where LOFAR data is ingested and further processed. The latest upgrade of the GPFS filesystem offers new HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management) features that can increase the speed and efficiency of transfering data to and from tape storage. This is particularly important in the case of theLOFAR long-term archive because the telescope generates data volumes on the order of Petabytes and much of the data need to be put on the tape storage - the only cost-effective solution to massive data storage.

A major upgrade of the university network will improve Target connectivity

Tuesday, Sept 2nd, 2014

The University of Groningen is undergoing a major upgrade of its network promising to offer internet speeds of up to 100 GB/s. This upgrade will also affect the Target network improving the internet connection to the Target infrastructure by a factor of 10. Currently, most connections offer 1 GB/s while after the upgrade the figure will raise to 10GB/s.

The Monk system for handwritten text recognition at the ICFHR'14 conference

Tuesday, Sept 2nd, 2014

Crete is certainly an attractive destination for the 14th International Conference on Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition, but the scientific committee of the conference found the Monk system at least equally attractive. The research group of Prof. Lambert Schomaker submitted three conference papers and all of them received a presentation spot at the conference. The novel algorithms, the flexibility of the system in processing diverse handwirtten collections from different historical periods and varying in language from Chinese to Arabic, Cyrilic and Hebrew, and the latest automated features in the system are drawing significant attention from the community. New collaborations with social sciences programs at universities and libraries around the world will be explored during the 3-day event.

AUGUST 2014


Vice-president of the university Jan de Jeu talks to IBM Smarter Planet Blog about ERCET

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Read an interesting interview in the IBM Smarter Planet Blog with Jan de Jeu, the vice president of the University of Groningen and a major force behind the ambitious ERCET (European Research Center for Exascale Technology) project initiated by ASTRON, IBM and the university. Jan de Jeu doesn't fail to mention that projects like Target and DOME have laid the groundwork for ERCET and research results and developments from these projects will channel naturally into the future exascale center.

OmegaCEN completes the second data release for the KiDS/VIKING surveys

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Leading the production of ESO's KiDS and VIKING surveys, the OmegaCEN group has just delivered the second data release to the European Southern Observatory. Operations are on time and the entire survey catalog is expected to be released by the end of September this year. In the meantime, two new PhD students have joined the Kapteyn institute to work on KiDS and VIKING data. After the release in September, the OmegaCEN group will focus on implementing improvements to the pipelines for data production and quality control.

Target and LOFAR getting ready for the next cycle of observations

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

While many of us are enjoying a cool fruit cocktail on some beach, a dedicated team of Target experts is overcoming a cocktail of challenges in order to guarantee smooth and reliable operation of the LOFAR long-term archive before the beginning of the next cycle of intense observations with the world's largest radio telescope. The so called EOR observations that aim to help scientists find out how the first stars and galaxies were formed will resume on Septemeber 15th. The expected average data volumes of 150-160 TB per week need to be ingested into the long-term archive - a distributed data storage connecting the data center in Groningen, SURFsara in Amsterdam and Julich in Germany. Target management reports that the archive is ready with full network connectivity between the three centers that can support automated and intelligent data transfer and storage.

JULY 2014


Target welcomes a South African delegation

Monday, July 14nd, 2014

A high profile delegation from South Africa visited the Target data center this afternoon as part of a week long visit to the Netherlands to expand and explore new venues for collaboration in Big Data driven research in astronomy. The primary focus of the visit is to identify strengths in Big Data expertise and build synergies in the context of existing projects like LOFAR, JIVE and MeerKAT as well as upcoming projects like the SKA (Square Kilometer Array). The latter will be the largest radio telescope in the world (to be built in South Africa and Australia) and the demands for its sensitivity and resolution will require novel data management technologies.  The delegation included representatives from the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa, scientists and project managers from the SKA South Africa and CSIR and their Dutch hosts from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Visitors heard about the Target activities during a presentation given by our scientific manager, Rees Williams. Later on they took a tour of the data facilities at the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology and concluded their visit with a live show and exploration of the cutting edge visualization technology of the 3D fulldome theater Infoversum.

The University of Groningen pushes forward towards the exascale era

Friday, July 5th, 2014

ASTRON, IBM and the University of Groningen signed a landmark agreement on June 27 to establish a European Research Center for Exascale Technology in the north of the Netherlands. The center will develop novel technologies to use Big Data to solve challenges in the health, water management and energy sectors with potential for spill over to other industries leading to a mich wider societal impact. Target and other initiatives like the DOME project are considered to be stepping stones towards the exascale center. Read the official press release of the University of Groningen.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

The ambitious 4-year long project Genome of the Netherlands published exciting results last week in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics. Fifty researchers from institutions across the country sequenced the full genome of 769 people in search of genetic clues of predisposition to certain diseases, patterns in aging processes, and evidence for migration patterns. The study was made possible thanks to the massive computing power and fast algorithms made available to the project via the SURFsara and Target infrastructure. Among other interesting findings, scientists saw genetic proof that Dutch lands have been populated not only from the south, but also from the North. An article (in Dutch) summarizing the paper for the general audience was published in the popular Dagblad van het Noorden newspaper. The paper can be found on the Nature Genetics website (subscription required).

JUNE 2014


Site for the E-ELT getting ready for the largest optical/infrared telescope

Friday, June 20th, 2014

The mountain at Cerro Armazones, Chile shook when 5000 cubic meters were blasted to level the ground and prepare the site for the construction of the E-ELT (European Extremely Large telescope) - an ambitious project of the European Sounthern Observatory (ESO) and partner institutions to build the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world. This event marks a major milestone in the development of the cutting-edge instrument expected to open new horizons in our inderstanding of the Universe. Read ESO's official press release>>

Spectacular inauguration of the Infoversum

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

June 17th marked the opening of the digital 3D fulldome theater Infoversum in the vibrant city of Groningen. The first theater of its kind in the Netherlands, the Infoversum was inagurated by the King's commisioner Max van den Berg and the mayor of Groningen Ruud Vreeman. Read our news release>>

The International LOFAR Telescope extends into Poland

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Poland has just joined the group of five other European countries to become the home of three new antenna stations of the international LOFAR telescope, extending the total number of stations to 43. Representatives of the Polish ministry of Science and Higher Education, ASTRON, national astronomical communities and local governments signed a formal contract that will mark the beginning of the construction of the new stations. These will be located in the south, north and west of the country and managed by regional research institutions. "With this addition, the ILT network can make significantly sharper images of the sky." said the Director of the International LOFAR Telescope, Dr. Rene Vermeulen. The LOFAR long-term archive, which hosts all data from the telescope and provides scientists access to it, is jointly designed and managed by Target and ASTRON. The archive is distributed over the data centers in Groningen, Amsterdam and Julich (Germany). Read the official press release of ASTRON>>

Ben Feringa's "top of the profs" lecture at the Infoversum. Photographer: Niels de Vries
Ben Feringa's "top of the profs" lecture at the Infoversum. Photographer: Niels de Vries

The Infoversum hosts the "Top of the Profs" lectures series

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2014

The top visualization facility in the city of Groningen, the 3D fulldome theater Infoversum, exclusively opens its doors before its official opening on June 17th to the top researchers from the University of Groningen. As part of the month-long celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the University of Groningen, five professors are delivering public lectures, two of which are hosted by the Infoversum. On May 28th, prof. Ben Feringa was the first to step on the Infoversum stage and use the power of the dome 's immersive visualization facilities to present and enchant the audience with the wonders of nanotechnology. DNA structures and complex nanomachinery surrounded the audience and made them feel as if they've been reduced to the size of an atom and taken on a journey to the bizzare land of the nanoworld. The overwhelmingly positive response by the visitors is a testimony that the main goal of the Infoversum - to enhance science outreach by creating and employing  powerful synergies between narration and visualization - is within reach. Don't miss the second lecture of the series (in Dutch) on general relativity on June 10th by prof. Eric Bergshoeff.

MAY 2014


Target at the annual Euclid Consortium meeting

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Every year, hundreds of scientists convene to one place to discuss the progress and future steps in the realization of the Euclid mission, currently expected to be launched in 2020. Mounted with two sophisticated instruments, the Euclid satellite will deliver massive amounts of data which astronomers and researchers will use to get closer to the answer of some of the most compeling scientific questions about the nature of dark matter and dark energy. This year, the Euclid Consortium, which consists of more than 1000 scientists from 14 countries, held its meeting in Marseille, Frances. Not surprisingly, the Target group was heavily represented at the meeting with three of our experts delivering talks during plenary and parallel sessions. A collaboration between Target, RUG, SRON and several other partners made possible the establishment of the NL Euclid Science Data Center, which started operations in February this year, at the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology. The center will build on the Target expertise and infrastructure to develop large section of the highly complex data management system of the mission and coordinate the storage, processing and archiving of the Euclid data among the 8 data centers spread around Europe. Read more about the NL Euclid Science Data Center.

Successful strong lensing workshop hosted by OmegaCEN

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Target partner, OmegaCEN and prof. Leon Koopmans from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute organized a two day intensive workshop on strong lensing at the beginning of the month. The workshop brought together researchers currently involved in the KiDs public survey and the external surveys of the ESA's Euclid mission, of which KiDS is part, scheduled to be launched at the end of the decade. Participants in the workshop evaluated the capabilities of the Target information system to enable scientific discovery of strong lensing phenomena. Components of the system -calibration and quality control, pipeline workflow and strong data lineage, robust and user-friendly data access services - were tested and proven to be robust and reliable. Operations at the recently established NL Euclid Science Data Center to handle much of the data management of the mission are heavily based on the Target information system design and expertise.

Big Data gets Big attention at the EU Kijkdagen 2014

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Target hosted one of its most successful public outreach events this Saturday at the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology. Read our news release to find out more.

APRIL 2014


The Infoversum will be part of the Lustrum celebrations of the RUG

Wednesday, April 23th, 2014

The countdown to the opening of the month long celebrations of the 400 anniversary of the University of Groningen (called Lustrum in Dutch) is promptly displayed on its homepage. Between May and June 15th the university, the city and province of Groningen and the entire country will celebrate this special birthday in the history of the second oldest Dutch university. The king will visit Gronigen to officially announce the start of a very diverse and exciting program packed with lectures, exhibitions, concerts, alumni events and more. A lecture series called "Top of the Profs" is part of the "400 Days for 400 Questions" - an initiative that brings questions from the public to the academic staff of the university who will answer them during the Lustrum month. "Top of the Profs" will feature four lectures by top university researchers who promise to take us on an exciting journey through the field of their own expertise. Two of these lectures will be held at the Infoversum - the new 3D fulldome theater at the center of Groningen, a venue for visualization exploration and innovation in science, art and entertainment, envisioned and built by the Target coordinator Edwin Valentijn. Prof. Ben Feringa will be at the Infoversum to talk about nanotechnology on May 28th and his colleague Eric Bergshoeff will follow him on June 10th with a lecture on the theory of relativity. Learn more about the lectures and buy your tickets from the official website of the Lustrum.

Prof. Valentijn talks to Dutch university directors about Target
Prof. Valentijn talks to Dutch university directors about Target

Target welcomed the Dutch university directors at the Infoversum

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Representatives of the board of directors of all Dutch universities convened at the Infoversum last Friday to learn how the Target project has created an expertise center at the University of Groningen which actively participates in driving Big Data research and technology development in the north of the Netherlands. The board of directors of the University of Groningen showcased the Target projects as an example of a successful public private cooperation where combined multidisciplinary expertise results in novel applications with direct societal and ecomonic impact. A testamony to that statement is the location where the meeting was hosted. The 3D fulldome theater Infoversum, expected to open doors to the public in June this year, is a direct spin-off of the Target project. The Infoversum will be a center for science, art and entertainment pushing the boundaries of visualization technogy used to presents complex information from all branches of science, business and governance to the audiences at large.

FEBRUARY 2014


Target/RUG contribution to the Euclid mission grabs the media attention

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

The recent developments at the NL Euclid Science Data Center located at the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology generated a wave of local and national media attention. The Target group collaborates with the European Space Agency to build a complex and distributed archive system that will host the data from the Euclid mission. Watch Prof. Valentijn speak about the mission and how the RUG participation brings the northern region closer to becoming a "Big data hub".

Target steps up operations at the NL Euclid Science Data Center

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Six years from now, a satellite will be launched to carry out the Euclid mission. Target leads the national effort in solving one of the most challenging aspect of the project – the development of a massive distributed system for storage and processing of the Euclid data. Read our news release>>

The MUSE instrument on the VLT telescope captures its first-light image

Friday, February 14th, 2014

After more than a decade of hard work the MUSE instrument mounted on the VLT telescope in Chile captured its first light image. The instrument is a combined imager and spectrographer which will deliver high-resolution data in both image and wavelength space. These data will be used by astronomers around the world to resolve more of the mysteries of galaxy formation and super-massive black holes. Target is involved in the development of the information system that will handle the MUSE data. Read our news release>>

NWO Grants for Target Partners and Collaborators

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The Target supported Monk system for handwritten text recognition will continue to expland its capabilities after it received a 100,000 euros grant from the NWO as part of a collaboration between institutes from Europe and the USA which was granted a total of 400,000 euros. Meanwhile, prof. Leon Koopmans from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute received the prestijious VICI grant of 1.5 million euros to support his work on dark matter using strong lensing data from the KiDS survey. The latter was produced by the Target partner, OmegaCEN. Read our news release>>

JANUARY 2014


ESO releases a stunning image of the Lagoon Nebula captured by the OmegaCAM on the VST

Monday, January 27th, 2014

The European Southern Oservatory (ESO) offered another treat to astronomers and astronomy lovers around the world when it released an impressive image of the Lagoon Nebula captured by the OmegaCAM instrument on the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). This 16000 - pixel image is part of the VPHAS+ survey, one of the three public optical surveys that ESO is currently producing, the other two being the ATLAS and KiDS surveys. The Target group is responsible for the production and quality control of the KiDS survey and its complementary infrared survey called VIKING. Target has recently delivered the KiDS survey to ESO. Read more>>

Directors of all data centers in the Netherlands convene to the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Today is a busy day on the ground floor of the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology. One of the conference rooms is packed with the directors of all data centers in the Netherlands. They have convened here to discuss possibilities for long-term future cooperation and more.

The Donald Smits Center for Information Technology joins the Users platform of the DOME Project

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The beginning of the new year marked the beginning of a new cooperation between the Donald Smits Center for Information Technology (CIT) and the DOME Project. On January 15th, the CIT officially joined the so called Users platform of the DOME project. This platform can be used by academic and private IT institutions to join the DOME and collaborate with ASTRON and IBM on any of the six research themes defined for the project. The DOME project is a five-year collaborative initiative set up by ASTRON and IBM in order to tackle the challenges of the SKA (Square Kilometer Array) data management. The SKA will be the largest radio telescope in the world, built in South Africa and Australia to explore the origins of the universe with unprecedented sensitivity. The management of the SKA data will be a daunting task requiring innovations in efficient data transport, storage and processing. You can read more about the DOME project on their website.

Last modified:23 March 2018 4.27 p.m.