Big Data from Small Telescopes

As part of the NRF’s astronomy desk review panels, I made an estimate of the amount of data expected from the optical facilities in South Africa.   SALT has dominated the plateau for the last ten years, but it has been producing a relatively small amount of data at around 5-10 GB per night.   With high speed instruments like BVIT and new instruments like the NIR, SALT will be capable of producing up to 250 GB per night of raw data.

Although it will still be the largest telescope on the plateau, SALT will have competition for producing the most data on the mountain.     Because of its location and support facilities, the observing station in Sutherland has become home to a number of small remote and/or robotic telescopes.    These include the three 1m telescopes for LCOGT, the Solaris telescopes searching for extra solar planets, and KMTNet, which will have a wide field imager.   Each of these telescopes is expected to produce between 60-200 GB of data per night.   In addition, a number of upgrades are expected for the small telescopes and SAAO is hoping to start regularly archiving and hosting this data as well.

With all of these upgrades and new telescopes, the facilities in Sutherland will be producing almost 1 TB of data a night!   Big data is coming to the optical astronomy in South Africa whether we are ready for it or not.