We present a systematic evaluation of JPEG2000 (ISO/IEC 15444) as a transport data format to enable rapid remote searches for fast transient events as part of the Deeper Wider Faster programme. Deeper Wider Faster programme uses ~20 telescopes from radio to gamma rays to perform simultaneous and rapid-response follow-up searches for fast transient events on millisecond-to-hours timescales. Deeper Wider Faster programme search demands have a set of constraints that is becoming common amongst large collaborations. Here, we focus on the rapid optical data component of Deeper Wider Faster programme led by the Dark Energy Camera at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Each Dark Energy Camera image has 70 total coupled-charged devices saved as a ~1.2 gigabyte FITS file. Near real-time data processing and fast transient candidate identifications—in minutes for rapid follow-up triggers on other telescopes—requires computational power exceeding what is currently available on-site at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. In this context, data files need to be transmitted rapidly to a foreign location for supercomputing post-processing, source finding, visualisation and analysis. This step in the search process poses a major bottleneck, and reducing the data size helps accommodate faster data transmission. To maximise our gain in transfer time and still achieve our science goals, we opt for lossy data compression—keeping in mind that raw data is archived and can be evaluated at a later time. We evaluate how lossy JPEG2000 compression affects the process of finding transients, and find only a negligible effect for compression ratios up to ~25:1. We also find a linear relation between compression ratio and the mean estimated data transmission speed-up factor. Adding highly customised compression and decompression steps to the science pipeline considerably reduces the transmission time—validating its introduction to the Deeper Wider Faster programme science pipeline and enabling science that was otherwise too difficult with current technology.
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