Quote of the moment

"I have to tell it again and again: I have no doctrine. I only point out something. I point out reality, I point out something in reality which has not or too little been seen. I take him who listens to me at his hand and lead him to the window. I push open the window and point outside. I have no doctrine, I carry on a dialogue." Martin Buber

Monday, February 13, 2012

Largest virtual telescope operational in Chile and now on your computer

The central parts of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, as observed in the near-infrared with the NACO instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. By following the motions of the most central stars over more than 16 years, astronomers were able to determine the mass of the supermassive black hole that lurks there.
ESO/S. Gillessen et al.
On my list of things to do while here in Chile is to travel to the northern Atacama desert to visit to the Very Large Telescope and  the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) site.  Even more so now that Chile's  Very Large Telescope array  is operational! This is exciting news for scientists and hobbyists alike! Also operational is the  WorldWide Telescope (WWT) that enables you to explore the universe in the comfort of your home, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world and combining it with 3D navigation.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA will be a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.

Last week astronomers in Chile said they had combined the images from Chile's four most powerful devices as if they were a single device.

"This weekend we managed to finish the process (of merging the images) after almost a year," said Jean-Philippe Berger, a scientist at the European Southern Observatory which operates the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) in Chile's high northern desert.

"For the first time, we made scientific observations through this new instrument, and we can say that it can be used."

The VLT complex in Paranal includes four large optical telescopes, each of which are about 30 meters (100 feet) high and have mirrors eight meters (25 feet) in diameter.

The astronomers brought together the signals received by the four telescopes thanks to a technique known as interferometry, which combines the images from the four to achieve a higher resolution image. Read more

Chile's  low humidity conditions in its mountains and high-altitude deserts makes it the perfect location for many international telescopes located. The Very Large Telescope array (VLT),  the flagship facility for European Southern Observatory (ESO).  The VTL is the world's most advanced optical instrument allows astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than with the individual telescopes, its resolution the equivalent to distinguishing the two headlights of a car at the distance of the Moon.

Those Unit Telescopes are now known as:
  • ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
  • KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
  • MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
  • YEPUN (UT4; Venus - as evening star).
Learn what there names mean here.

Can't get to the VTL? Take a virtual tour here.
Click on the image to take a Virtual Tour in and nearby the VLT.Images and videos credits: ESO/S. Brunier, ESO/H. Heyer and ESO/José Francisco Salgado

Or  better yet- have the experience of this beautiful telescopic environment at home on your computer!  The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope—bringing together imagery from the world’s best ground- and space-based telescopes for the exploration of the universe.

From web to desktop to full dome planetarium, the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) enables you to explore the universe, bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world and combining it with 3D navigation. Experience narrated guided tours from astronomers and educators featuring interesting places in the sky. You can research and import your own data and visualize it, then create a tour to share with others. This version enables seamless, guided explorations of the universe from within a web browser on PC and Intel Mac OS X by using the power of Microsoft Silverlight 4.0.

The mission of the WWT is twofold:
  • To aggregate scientific data from major telescopes, observatories, and institutions and make temporal and multi-spectral studies available through a single, cohesive Internet–based portal
  • To stimulate interest in science among younger generations, providing a compelling base for teaching astronomy, scientific discovery, and computational science 
With the viewing clients needed for your PC or Mac installed, you’ll be able to download and navigate in the WorldWide Telescope to view a growing number of guided tours created by astronomers and educators from famous observatories and planetariums. For example, you can join Harvard astronomer Alyssa Goodman on a journey that shows how dust in the Milky Way Galaxy condenses into stars and planets. Or you can accompany University of Chicago cosmologist Mike Gladders two billion years into the past to view a gravitational lens bending the light from galaxies – a phenomenon that allows you to see billions more years into cosmic history. Feel free to pause a tour at any time and explore on your own – you can later re-enter the tour where you left off.

I hope to get to Atacama this year but in the meantime I'll be playing with the WorldWide Telescope! If  you have visited the telescopes in Chile or tried the Worldwide Telescope site let us know how your visits were- actual and/or virtual. 

1 comment:

  1. As a postscript it appears you will have more features to explore using a PC than a Mac (Which unfortunately I use most frequently). See how the features compare: