Data for a Galactic Census
On July 29, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS) released a new open dataset of 60,000 stars from across our galaxy. It is the first such release by the survey’s Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), which aims to create a census of stars in the Milky Way. The data consist of high resolution spectra, which are measurements of light emitted by the stars at each wavelength across the electromagnetic spectrum. Spectra help astrophysicists infer the chemical composition of stars, which is linked to their age; as a result, the database will help researchers study the formation of our galaxy and what it might have been like at various stages of existence. The release also includes hundreds of thousands of spectra from other galaxies and quasars beyond the Milky Way, collected for another SDSS initiative.