A Database That Maps Our Galaxy{Comments Off on A Database That Maps Our Galaxy}

by Steven C
The article that I read was about how astronomers have been using  the Sloan telescope at New Mexico’s Apache Point Observatory since 1998 to continuously take pictures of different parts of the universe and store them in a database called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database. More than 100 terabytes were used to store the information of these images, and astronomers have used this data to map billions of different stars, galaxies, quasars, asteroids, etc. This database was also used to make a 3-d map of our galaxy and to study the structure of our universe.

The article also discussed that last year, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey was used to help astronomers find out why some white dwarfs had unexpected amounts of metal in their atmospheres. By comparing measurements of these white dwarfs from this database with those of other stars, astronomers found that these traces of metal may actually be planetary debris that included material containing water. Since the Milky Way contains many white dwarfs, these astronomers now believe that planets containing water may be more common than previously thought, and therefore the existence of extraterrestrial life is more possible than previously assumed as well.

I thought this article was very interesting to me because it shows databases could even be used to create a 3-d map of our galaxy. So many more questions could arise or be answered from this data, because we could now use these images to make different theories and assumptions like the possible existence of extraterrestrial life. I think that it is refreshing to read about articles that describe databases that aren’t just used for business applications. The information contained in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is open to the public, and is meant for the benefit of everyone who is interested in it and wants to research it. It can help astronomers make more discoveries about our universe, which could help everyone learn more about it.


Pacella, Rena Marie. “The World’s Most Amazing Databases: Sloan Digital Sky Survey.” popsci.com. 3 Nov 2011 http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-10/amazing-databases-sloan-digital-sky-survey-database