UCD firm goes interstellar with €800k 3D galaxy map

A UCD spin-off company has secured an €800,000 contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to help create a 3D map of the Milky Way.

UCD firm goes interstellar with €800k 3D galaxy map

Parameter Space Ltd secured the contract as part of a three-year project to develop new software capable of exploiting the unprecedented volume of data returning to Earth from ESA’s Gaia satellite which was launched in late 2013. The contract will also enable the company to create four jobs.

The main goals of the €700m mission are to measure the precise positions and luminosity of one billion stars and to discover thousands of planets around other stars and supernovae.

Since July last year, Gaia has made nearly 100bn measurements with its 1bn-pixel digital camera. Gaia’s database will eventually grow to one petabyte in size, which is equivalent to about 200,000 DVDs worth of data.

Analysis of this data will result in the creation of a 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy.

Parameter Space will develop a portal to host analysis algorithms provided by the scientific community and develop specific tools for enhanced analysis and access to this data.

The company was established last year by astrophysicists Prof Lorraine Hanlon and Dr Sheila McBreen as a spin-out from the UCD School of Physics.

They established Parameter Space following completion of the five-week 2014 UCD Commercialisation Bootcamp held at NovaUCD.

The pair lead the UCD Space Science and Advanced Materials group and together have over 30 years of experience working on space missions, including ESA’s INTEGRAL mission and Nasa’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Prof Hanlon said she was “delighted” that Parameter Space had been awarded the contract.

“We are delighted to have secured this key contract from ESA and our aim is to develop software tools that will provide additional capability for scientists and citizens to make use of this unique data set,” she said.

Head of operations development division with the ESA Dr William O’Mullane said the agency was looking forward to working with an “innovative and capable” Irish company on the project.

“Having personally worked on the Gaia Science Ground Segment for nearly two decades it is great to start thinking about delivering data to the world. The European Space Astronomy Centre already serves up the ESA space science mission data and will also serve up Gaia data,” said Dr O’Mullane.

“This contract is part of our continuing attempt to improve our delivery of science, it is a pleasure to find an innovative and capable team to collaborate on this in Dublin.”

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