Frameworks: SCiMMA: Real-time Orchestration of Multi-Messenger Astrophysical Observations

  • Wolski, Richard (CoPI)
  • Howell, D. A. (CoPI)
  • Hanna, Chad Richard (CoPI)
  • Brazier, Adam M. (CoPI)
  • Narayan, Gautham (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The first neutron star merger detected in gravitational waves (GW170817), the associated prompt gamma ray burst, and kilonova afterglow, opened a new window on the universe revealing insights into many areas of astrophysics, including stellar evolution, the neutron star equation-of-state, cosmology, nucleosynthesis, the opacity of heavy elements, gamma-ray burst and jet physics, galactic evolution, tests of general relativity, and more. This is but one example of the power of multimessenger astrophysics (MMA), where electromagnetic information is combined with sensing the universe in completely different ways, either through the detections of particles or gravitational waves. MMA events present unique challenges - bringing together previously siloed groups and requiring standardization between different subfields, rapid response, and global coordination of limited resources. This necessitates an overhaul in the outdated communications infrastructure currently employed, where a relatively modest investment can produce huge gains in the efficiency of billion-dollar investments for experiments such as the LIGO-VIRGO-Kagra (LVK) collaboration, the IceCube Neutrino Experiment, and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. The SCIMMA team is developing the infrastructure to bring together these siloed facilities and their data in real-time, enabling for the first time a coordinated national astrophysical ecosystem. This infrastructure will improve the efficiency of identifying the electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational waves, high energy particle and neutrino experiments, permitting more novel discoveries at the intersection of high-energy physics and astronomy, and providing new ways to probe the nature of gravity itself.In previous work, the SCIMMA team surveyed the community and developed tools to serve their needs, such as Hopskotch, a robust, rapid, and scalable Kafka-based messaging system. On top of that SCIMMA has layered the Hopskotch Enabled Real-time Messaging Service (HERMES), a web-based graphical user interface and associated API. This solves the problem of standardization and is both simple to use (no software needs to be installed), and yet complex enough to achieve new kinds of automation through APIs. With the Hopskotch framework and HERMES service, SCIMMA brings together a disparate network of facilities, orchestrating follow-up during the LVK fourth observing run and beyond. HERMES blends human and machine readability, a critical piece of missing infrastructure necessary for the robotic and queue-based telescopes that are essential for the rapid follow-up of MMA events. Hopskotch is in use, and has become critical for internal LIGO use, including the distribution of LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA (LVK) alerts in the O4 observing run. SCIMMA is taking Hopskotch from a prototype to a production state and adding new features as requested by the community. New features include connecting LVK to particle detectors such as IceCube, which in turn will be connected to and interconnect ground-based observing facilities such as the upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory. This builds on associations like the Astrophysical Multi-messenger Observatory Network (AMON), and the Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON). These efforts include: (1) a devops team to insure continuous uptime, security, and gather feedback; (2) upgrades to the Identity and Access Management system to allow private topics so that sub-teams can use the same infrastructure to communicate as they would on the public system; (3) the continued development of Hopskotch and HERMES to take it from prototype to an industry-leading communications and standardization tool; (4) interfacing with existing infrastructure, both astronomical facilities, as well as services such as NASA GCNs, the Transient Name Server, Treasure Map, brokers, and the TOM Toolkit. Together, these improvements reduce redundancy in observations, allow for more rapid and frequent discovery of electromagnetic counterparts, and make observatories more efficient. Additionally, HERMES lowers the barriers to entry faced by smaller or less well-resourced communities. SCIMMA’s aim is to give everyone across the globe streamlined real-time access to all the relevant public data for MMA events to make it increasingly easier for all researchers to facilitate discovery, thereby democratizing science.This project advances the objectives of "Windows on the Universe: the Era of Multi-Messenger Astrophysics", one of the 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments.This award by the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure is jointly supported by the Division of Astronomical Sciences and the Physics at the Information Frontier program in the Division of Physics within the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date7/1/236/30/27


  • National Science Foundation: $3,554,724.00


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