The Fornax Initiative
A NASA Astrophysics Science Platform

NASA's Astrophysics missions generate vast and complex datasets offering immense scientific potential. The vital role of NASA's Astrophysics archives in mission success is evident, as they have demonstrated that user-focused, technologically-rich data systems are key science multipliers. As the Astronomy 2020 Decadal Review emphasized, in the coming decade, frontier science will be done with multi-wavelength and multi-messenger analysis across large, complex data sets, which will only increasing the challenges of accessing big data, maintaining software, and obtaining sufficient computing resources.

NASA Astrophysics is developing the Fornax Initiative, a cloud-based system that brings together data, software, and computing so that researchers can focus on science.

The three pillars of the Fornax Initiative project are:

Fornax Scientific Components, the astrophysics-specific elements required to enable science in the cloud, including Python notebooks that demonstrate access to cloud-hosted NASA mission data, curated astrophysics software environments, and cloud-native services to support common astronomy workflows.

Fornax Science Console, a web-based application that users log into for access to cloud computing, data storage, and interactive data analysis in JupyterLab.

Science Support Systems, a program of engagement with the astronomical community, including a Helpdesk and training opportunities.

Scientific Information Graphic

Our goal is to support the science needs of a wide range of users, from those who are learning Python and would simply benefit from having access to a maintained Python environment for common astrophysics software to those who wish to perform complicated analyses that require significant cloud computing. For use cases that require more computing than can be provided by NASA through Fornax, we will build the system such that scientists can use the Fornax Scientific Components and the Fornax Science Console with their own cloud computing resources. This commitment to including all users is at the heart of how Fornax will realize the promise of the cloud in supporting Open Science.

The Fornax Initiative is a collaboration of the NASA Astrophysics Archives with GSFC’s Astrophysics Projects Division (APD):

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