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Astronomers and Data Scientists from Caltech and India Join Forces to Produce More Powerful Data Analysis Tools

The growing scientific partnership between Caltech and India including the TMT and LIGO-India observatories currently under development, now has a new component that deals with the knowledge discovery in big and complex data.  It is funded by the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF), which was established by a joint India-US bilateral agreement in order to promote partnerships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation.  This new effort is a joint research center called 'Pragadh,' and focuses on Deep Learning (an aspect of Machine Learning) for astronomy.  Caltech is the US node of the new center, and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) is its Indian counterpart. The center should benefit several areas of the time-domain astronomy, including the sky surveys like Catalina Real-time Transients Survey (CRTS) and Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), as well as the gravitational wave studies with LIGO. 

    The joint center builds on a previous successful joint center called Class-ACT that concentrated on classification of astronomical sources. The methods developed during that period are already being employed in current sky surveys.  Deep Learning is a promising area of Machine Learning that is being increasingly used in all sciences, including astronomy.  The Indo-US team team has an extensive experience in this arena, that in the past included identification of bars in galaxies, classification of variable astronomical sources, separation of Near Earth Asteroids from artifacts in images, image subtraction for identification of transient events on the sky, and characterizing noise in gravitational wave observations. New tools will expand on this work, and will also produce a powerful data analytics tool kit that should find applications in many other domains outside of astronomy.

    The Caltech members of the team include Ashish Mahabal, Senior Scientist with the Center for Data Driven Discovery (CD3) as the PI from Caltech, Prof. S. George Djorgovski, the Director of CD3, Res. Prof. Matthew Graham, the Project Scientist for ZTF, and Jessica McIver, a Postdoctoral Scholar with the LIGO Laboratory. Team members from India include Prof. Ajit Kembhavi (Indian PI), Sanjit Mitra, Sheelu Abraham, Sajeeth Philip, and Kaustubh Vaghmare, all from IUCAA.  Additional members include Pavlos Protopapas (Harvard) and Joe Philip (Penn State).