B.C. firm finds way to mass produce telescopes that see billions of light years
If the inventors of a so-called game-changing telescope have their way, there will be a lot more discoveries about our solar system, galaxy and the universe.
The British Columbia firm Dynamic Structures has developed a new generation of telescopes that makes them financially feasible to build.
Company CEO Guy Nelson said Friday that many universities dream of having an observatory, but traditional telescopes require heavy mirrors supported by large observatories.
But using robots and the company’s new optical technology, Dynamic said it can mass produce light-weight mirrors with the ability to see millions, and even billions of light years away.
Dynamic Structures founder David Halliday said they’ve developed the 30 Metre Telescope that is able to take atmosphere away with a flexible lens, focusing on nothing but what the viewer wants to see.
"And behind that flexible lens you’ve got a series of actuators — which are little pistons that can move very, very rapidly, these pistons can change the shape of the surface," he explained.
In order for the telescope to get a reference point, a laser is sent into the sodium layer, creating a star of reference, he said.
"So you measure that, it gives you a wave and then through a giant mathematical model you reverse that, and make it even. Now you’ve got a straight line and that information, you poke that back into the servers that control the flexible mirror and if you control it properly, you take the atmosphere away," he said.
The company has always made telescopes, but over the last 20 years has used that technology for amusement rides.
Nelson said it started when Halliday and an engineer with the U.S. government collaborated on a project. That engineer later became the head of “imagineering” at The Walt Disney Company.
He said Dynamic was called in when the engineer thought the firm could solve a problem on one of its rides at Epcot Centre.
Halliday said they’re simply transferring their manufacturing ability, sharing it with academia and converting it into real solutions.
"Many times what happens is it stops at the academic level and you’d not be able to cultivate that into a practical, applied solution. That’s what we’re doing," he said.
The firm, which employees about 130 people in Port Coquitlam, B.C., has a backlog of about $100 million worth of amusement park rides to be exported to the U.S. and China. [x]
This new telescope will detect and characterize exoplanets, investigate the nature of mysterious dark matter and dark energy and study the physics of black holes.
PICTURED ABOVE: The MeerkKAT 7 array, a precursor to the SKA project, north of Carnarvon. [Bram Lammers]
SA, U.S Sign Radio Astronomy Pact
South Africa’s Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project has struck an agreement with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) of the United States that is set to foster high-level science collaboration between the two countries.
The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which is to be co-hosted by South Africa and Australia.
SKA South Africa said in a statement last week that the two institutions had agreed to “continue their collaboration across a broad front to advance cutting-edge radio astronomy projects in both countries over the next five years”.
The agreement, signed in Cape Town on 5 August, paves the way for SKA South Africa and the NRAO to pool resources and expertise in high-level projects related to the development and implementation of software, data processing and archiving, and state-of-the-art receiving systems.
The two institutions will exchange staff and students, hold joint workshops, and work on plans to establish joint research and development activities.
Mission to build world’s most advanced telescope reaches major milestone
With the signing last week of a “master agreement” for the Thirty Meter Telescope — destined to be the most advanced and powerful optical telescope in the world — the University of California and UCLA moved a step closer to peering deeper into the cosmos than ever before.The agreement, signed by UC President Mark Yudof and several international partners, formally outlines the telescope project’s goals, defines the terms of its construction and establishes its governance structure, design and financing.Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), named for its 30-meter primary mirror — three times the diameter of the largest existing telescopes — is scheduled to begin in April 2014 atop Hawaii’s dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The TMT’s scientific operations are slated to start in 2022.
The photos suggest that star formation is due to large clouds of gas collapsing inward.
Kepler has collected huge amounts of data, and researchers have had time to go through just about half of it so far.
Hawaii approves permit for world’s largest telescope
Pacific Business News: A permit for the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope was approved by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday.
The telescope will be built on the summit of the volcano Mauna Kea by a group of research universities primarily from California and Canada.
Researchers believe the telescope will produce images three times sharper than those produced by optical telescopes today.
Read more: http://bit.ly/112KHWk
Illustration courtesy TMT Observatory Corp
World’s largest space observatory opens in Chile
What is thought to be the world’s largest ground-based observatory opened in northern Chile, wielding unprecedented power to peer into the remotest regions of the universe.
The ALMA space observatory was inaugurated here on Wednesday on a desert plateau some 5,000 meters above sea level, at a ceremony attended by President Sebastian Pinera and other dignitaries.
"Here in this desert, the driest in the world, it is a great privilege to inaugurate the observatory," Pinera said.
Calling it ‘the world’s most powerful,’ he said the observatory will make “a significant contribution to humanity, enable a better understanding of the universe in which we live, and perhaps help us discover life beyond Earth.”
"ALMA is a huge telescope 16 kilometers (10 miles) in diameter," said the facility’s director Thijs de Graauw, as it was declared officially opened.
Amid excited applause, 59 of the 66 antennas slowly began to rotate and point toward the interior of the universe.
By October, all the antennas will be fully installed and operational. Gianni Marconi, an astronomer at the massive ground array of telescopes, recently proudly proclaimed to AFP that ALMA is ‘the largest observatory that has ever been built.’
Big Bang Meets Big Data: South Africa Joins ASTRON and IBM to Build the Foundation for a New Era of Computing
Square Kilometer Array (SKA) South Africa, a business unit of the country’s National Research Foundation is joining ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) in a four-year collaboration to research extremely fast, but low-power exascale computer systems aimed at developing advanced technologies for handling the massive amount of data that will be produced by the SKA, which is one of the most ambitious science projects ever undertaken.
The SKA is an international effort to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, which is to be located in Southern Africa and Australia to help better understand the history of the universe. The project constitutes the ultimate Big Data challenge, and scientists must produce major advances in computing to deal with it. The impact of those advances will be felt far beyond the SKA project—helping to usher in a new era of computing, which IBM calls the era of cognitive systems.
When the SKA is completed, it will collect Big Data from deep space containing information dating back to the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago. The aperture arrays and dishes of the SKA will produce 10 times the global internet traffic*, but the power to process all of this data as it is collected far exceeds the capabilities of the current state-of-the-art technology.
As part of the global effort to solve this unprecedented challenge, last year, ASTRON and IBM launched a public-private partnership called DOME, to develop a fundamental IT roadmap for the SKA. The collaboration includes a user platform where organizations from around the world can jointly investigate emerging technologies in high-performance, energy-efficient computing, nanophotonics, and data streaming. Through its SKA South Africa unit, the National Research Foundation is now a user platform partner in DOME.
"The DOME collaboration brings together a dream team of scientists and engineers in an exciting partnership of public and private institutions. This project lays the foundation to help the scientific community solve other data challenges such as climate change, genetic information and personal medical data,” said Simon Ratcliffe, Technical Coordinator, DOME-South Africa.
Scientists from all three organizations will collaborate remotely and at the newly established ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology in Drenthe, the Netherlands.
More specifically, scientists from SKA South Africa will focus on the following research themes:
- Visualizing the challenge — fundamental research will be conducted into signal processing and advanced computing algorithms for the capture, processing, and analysis of the SKA data so clear images can be produced for astronomers to study;
- Desert-proof technology — the DOME team is researching and prototyping microserver architectures based on liquid-cooled 3D stacked chips. The team in South Africa will extend this research to make the microsevers rugged or “desert proof” to handle the extreme environmental conditions where the SKA will be located; and
- Software analytics — the 64 dishes of the MeerKat telescope in South Africa will be used for the testing and development of a sophisticated software program that will aid in the design of the entire computing system holistically and optimally—taking into account all of the cost and performance trade-offs for the eventual 3,000 SKA dishes.
“The DOME research has implications far beyond astronomy. These scientific advances will help build the foundation for a new era of computing, providing technologies that learn and reason. Ultimately, these cognitive technologies will help to transform entire industries, including healthcare and finance,” said Dr. Ton Engbersen, DOME project leader, IBM Research. “For example, we are designing a system for storing information that learns from its interactions with the data and parcels it out in real time to the storage medium that’s most appropriate for each bit, which can also be applied to medical images.”
"DOME is not only innovating in the laboratory, but our user platform is setting a new standard in open collaboration,” said Dr. Albert-Jan Boonstra, DOME project leader, ASTRON. “In addition to SKA South Africa, four additional organizations are expected to join in the coming weeks including universities and small and medium-sized businesses located in the Netherlands."
The initial five-year DOME collaboration is realized with financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) and from the Province of Drenthe.
Virtual Recruiting Event
IBM and ASTRON scientists will be hosting a SmartCloud virtual recruiting event on 26 March for several open positions within the DOME project. For details visitwww.zurich.ibm.com/astron/
Chile’s ALMA probes for origins of universe
Earth’s largest radio telescope is growing more powerful by the day on this remote plateau high above Chile’s Atacama desert, where visitors often feel like they’re planting the first human footprints on the red crust of Mars.
The 16,400-foot (5,000-meter) altitude, thin air and mercurial climate here can be unbearable. Visitors must breathe oxygen from a tank just to keep from fainting. Winds reach 62 mph (100 km) and temperatures drop to 10 below zero (minus 25 Celsius).
But for astronomers, it’s paradise.
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Kepler telescope spots 41 new exoplanets
The Kepler spacecraft tags potential planets by noting dips in a star’s brightness caused by a planet crossing in front of it.
PICTURED ABOVE: An artist rendering of NASA’s latest X-ray telescope.
NASA on Wednesday launched its newest X-ray space telescope on a mission to shine a light on black holes and other hard-to-see objects lurking in the Milky Way and other galaxies.
Mission controllers clapped after receiving a signal from the telescope that it had reached orbit 350 miles above Earth.
"It’s a terrific day," assistant launch director Tim Dunn said.
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NASA to launch black hole-hunting space telescope
The NuStar telescope will spend 2 years mapping black holes in the Milky Way.
Making music with real stars: Kepler Telescope star data creates musical melody
Why stop at the dark side of the moon to make music when you can look thousands of light years into space? That’s what a team of Georgia Tech researchers have done, using data from two stars in our galaxy to create sounds for a national recording artist.
Over the years, researchers in Georgia Tech’s Sonification Lab (SonLab) have converted numerical data into sounds to analyze stock market prices, election results and weather data. When the reggae/rock band Echo Movement called wanting to turn the movements of celestial bodies into music, SonLab looked to the heavens.
"The Sonification Lab receives a lot of requests to convert scientific data into sound, but this one was truly unique," said School of Psychology Professor Bruce Walker. "It’s not often that we have a chance to help an actual star compose music."
(click-through for full story)
Green light for world’s biggest optical telescope
A 1.1 billion-euro project to build the world’s largest optical telescope will go ahead after the European organization overseeing it said it won backing from most of its members.
The European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will directly image planets outside the solar system and those orbiting other suns in so-called “habitable zones” to perhaps answer the question of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.
It will use a mirror 39 meters in diameter that will give a more detailed and deeper view of the universe than ever before. Most large ground-based telescopes currently have mirrors eight to 10 meters across.
The large mirror on the ELT, made up from nearly 800 hexagonal segments, will gather 12 times more light than the largest optical telescopes operating today. It will be able to see objects that are much more distant and faint.
"Its unique combination of sharp imaging and huge light collecting area will allow us to observe some of the most exciting phenomena in the universe in much better detail," said Isobel Hook, a scientist at Oxford University who is working on the project.
"For example we’ll be able to observe distant galaxies in the process of formation, see the effects of massive black holes on their environment and even search for planets in ‘habitable zones’ beyond our solar system, where life could exist."
The European Southern Observatory’s Council met at its headquarters in Garching, Germany, on Monday where 10 countries gave the project full or conditional support.
Representatives from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland voted to start the program while Belgium, Finland, Italy, and the United Kingdom backed the project pending confirmation from their governments. The remaining four - Denmark, France, Portugal and Spain - said they continue to work towards approval.
Brazil plans to join the ESO Council this year and Chile, which will play host to the telescope on top of the 3,060-metre Cerro Armazones mountain in the Atacama Desert, is also involved.
"Today’s announcement is an important step towards construction, though the final go-ahead depends of course on obtaining approval by a number of governments … to such a long-term financial commitment," said John Womersley, chief executive of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.