Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Grid Technology Helps Astronomers Keep Pace With The Universe

Date:
October 14, 2003
Source:
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council
Summary:
"Intelligent Agent" computer programs are roaming the Internet and watching the skies. It may sound like science fiction, but these programs, using Grid computing technology, will help astronomers detect some of the most dramatic events in the universe, such as massive supernova explosions.

"Intelligent Agent" computer programs are roaming the Internet and watching the skies. It may sound like science fiction, but these programs, using Grid computing technology, will help astronomers detect some of the most dramatic events in the universe, such as massive supernova explosions. The Agents, created by the "eScience Telescopes for Astronomical Research" (eSTAR) project, have been deployed on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii. The work is being announced at a conference in Strasbourg on 14th and 15th October.

Dr. Alasdair Allan, on the eSTAR team at the University of Exeter, said "The universe currently does things faster than we can respond to them. To study the most rapid and violent events in the universe, we need to be able to follow them quickly."

As well as supernova explosions, many other astronomical events happen suddenly and unpredictably. These include the detection of near-Earth asteroids as they move across the sky, rapid changes in the swirling gases being swallowed by black holes, and the subtle changes in the brightness of stars which may indicate planets in orbit around them.

The Intelligent Agent programs communicate with telescopes and each other using technology designed for the Grid - the "next generation Internet". They make observations with the telescopes, which they can analyse and immediately follow up with further observations, without the need for human intervention.

Prof. Tim Naylor, who led the eSTAR team and is also at the University of Exeter, said "We're creating a network of telescopes which can respond automatically to objects of great astronomical importance."

Although this is not the first time that telescopes have been automated, or connected to the Internet, Dr. Allan explains "What is so important here is that we have developed an intelligent observing system. It thinks and reacts for itself, deciding whether something it has discovered is interesting enough to need more observations. If more observations are needed, it just goes ahead and gets them."

Frossie Economou of the Joint Astronomy Centre, which operates UKIRT, said "Our plan is for the Agents to send messages to astronomers' mobile phones, and even pictures if the phone supports them. That way, you'll be able to follow events at the telescope, no matter where you are in the world."

Dr. Allan continues "The Agents can detect and respond to the rapidly changing universe faster than any human, and make decisions to observe an object much faster than would otherwise be possible. Only then need they tell their human masters what they're doing."

The Agents were recently put through their paces for the first time on a large research-class telescope: the 3.8-metre United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. An Agent took live images with UKIRT, and compared them with previous infrared maps of the sky. It detected a dwarf nova - a star which experiences sudden flares in its brightness.

It wasn't just technical hurdles that the team had to overcome in order to bring this complex system online. As Dr. Andy Adamson, Director of UKIRT, said "On the test night itself, we even had an earthquake on the island, but everyone remained undaunted. Both the eSTAR Agent and the telescope worked as planned."

In the next few months, the eSTAR Agents will spread from UKIRT to the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (also operated by the Joint Astronomy Centre). After that, the team will expand the network to include fully robotic telescopes such as the Liverpool Telescope on La Palma and the Faulkes Telescopes in Hawaii and Australia.

So are the eSTAR team planning to put astronomers out of a job? Dr. Allan says not: "The Agents can be used to assist human observers, instead of replacing them entirely - augmenting their abilities to do science quicker, faster, and more reliably."

The eSTAR work is being presented in talks by Alasdair Allan and Frossie Economou at the Astronomical Data Analysis Software & Systems conference in Strasbourg, on the 14th and 15th October respectively.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council. "Grid Technology Helps Astronomers Keep Pace With The Universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031014071110.htm>.
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council. (2003, October 14). Grid Technology Helps Astronomers Keep Pace With The Universe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031014071110.htm
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council. "Grid Technology Helps Astronomers Keep Pace With The Universe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031014071110.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2014) The rocket, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, carries a Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment destined for the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins