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New Wide-Angle Telescope to Capture Night Sky 168

NewScientist is reporting that a new telescope located in Chile is aiming to capture images of the entire night sky every three nights. From the article: "The telescope will use a digital camera with 3 billion pixels to image the entire sky across three nights, producing an expected 30 terabytes of data per night. This will allow astronomers to detect objects that quickly change their position, such as near-Earth asteroids, or their brightness, such as supernovae."
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New Wide-Angle Telescope to Capture Night Sky

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  • UFO'S (Score:4, Funny)

    by ThePopeLayton (868042) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:36PM (#15373002)
    Finally equipment good enought to catch the UFO's in action!!!
    • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:41PM (#15373023)
      You should submit it to NASA!
    • Re:UFO'S (Score:4, Funny)

      by Limburgher (523006) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:41PM (#15373024) Homepage Journal
      Catch what belonging to the UFO? :)
      • Although in British English we have ceased to use an apostrophe between an abbreviation and its plural s, this is not the case in American English. The New Yorker is the guide in this, and if ever a publication was full of punctuation extremists, that one is. Older British writers may still use the convention, and certainly I am old enough that I will write (say) MP3's and 1980's.

        The apostrophic status is made clear from context, e.g.

        The UFO's had little green men inside
        The UFO's crew were little green me

        • Hmm? The New Yorker doesn't use apostrophes when pluralizing abbreviations. See here, [] for example: "DVDs," not "DVD's."

          Anyway, why are you taking style hints from a source that seems to think it unobjectionable to splatter its pages with uncontrolled diereses? :-P
        • And besides, I'm an American. :)
        • Nope, it's definitely the same in UK and US English. People over here are just dumber, and are less likely to care or know the difference (at least it seems so from an honor student's perspective). What people do and what's correct aren't one in the same - no matter what you intend, "MP3's" refers to a possession of the MP3 or "MP3 is", and "MP3s" refers to plural MP3 files.

          I can write "your an idiot" and while people would get my meaning (and retaliate with all sorts of comments about the irony of mine

          • "MP3's" refers to a possession of the MP3 or "MP3 is", and "MP3s" refers to plural MP3 files

            Does the english language actually dictate how to correctly pluralise acronyms (or in the case of mp3, whatever you'd call it), especially those that end in a number?

            As for UFO - surely the plural (ie, Unidentified Flying Objects - correctly with no apostrophe) actually has the same acronym; UFO.

            I don't know if there is or can be a 100% correct when we're talking about language/communication shortcuts, and while you
        • The apostrophic status is made clear from context

          Almost any misspelling, poor punctuation or lack of grammar can be understood thanks to context (thankfully, or most of the web would be completely unreadable, whatever the language). It doesn't make it right.

          You might want to read something like "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves []" for an accessible book if those little wiggly signs have you confused.

    • Re:UFO'S (Score:2, Funny)

      by undeaf (974710)
      I for one welcome our unidentified flying overlords.
    • no... it will take three days to photograph the entire night sky, then it starts over again... each photo only covers 4 degrees
    • Expected answer from the "I want to believe" types: Actually it won't; such photos of LGM which are conspiring with the government to make crop circles and mutilate cattle everywhere will be classified or lost, or at least will cameras will conveniently "malfunction" for those shots resulting in a blurry photo. They're out there -- really, and they're the ones who teamed up with the Illuminati to put Dubya in power!
  • by Limburgher (523006) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:36PM (#15373004) Homepage Journal
    I'd love to see the facility set up to store the output, to say nothing of processing it. I wonder how they'll archive it?
    • easy (Score:5, Funny)

      by commodoresloat (172735) * on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:47PM (#15373041)
      They'll put up a few bittorrent files and name them "Jenna Jameson porn XXX" and such.
    • I assume it's 30TB UNCOMPRESSED. That's alot of black. PNG FTW. Also if they can only store the inital state of the sky on the first night and then store the CHANGES between the skies (maybe a slight change in brightness of a few stars, a comet a few pixels big, etc, which wouldn't make for a large file of changes.
    • Honestly they have no clue. They are really counting on Moore's law to continue up to the point they go online. The data pipeline does not exists today, nor does the storage this data set will require - to say nothing of the amount of space required to run the search requests of every single astronomer in the world who may be inetrested in the data set this thing will produce. Honsetly it is a great instrument, it is just the folks behind it are really, really depending on not hitting a downswing in tech
      • by Rakishi (759894) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @04:33PM (#15373377)
        Particle accelerator experiments seem to regularly result in data from 10 to 100 terabytes. The Stanford Linear Accelerator has a db of over 800 terabytes and I believe it didn't cost too much to set up (not to mention I doubt it's exactly cutting edge anymore if it ever was), so such large data sets are already in use. Given that this data will be mostly black space and much of the rest will not change unexpectadly over time compression will make it a small problem in comparison to the onces I already listed.
      • That's okay, based on the growth of Windows, Windows Forever+1 (the version following Vista) should boast disk requirements of 500GB just for the operating system if you plot out the growth curve. Don't worry, Microsoft will be prompting hard disk manufacturers to keep push disk capacities higher at faster rates. The thing that WILL suck though is the amount of time defrag.exe will take to complete. Ouch!

        This cheap shot was made possible by that evil tool of the debil, Mozilla Firefox instead of the nice
      • "They are really counting on Moore's law to continue up to the point they go online"

        Or that Google will step in and do the storage/search functions for them, like only Google can ;-)

    • by value_added (719364) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:56PM (#15373065)
      I'd suggest multipart .RAR archives, and have someone generate a new NFO file every 3 days.
    • They are piping everything to /dev/null. It's also quite fast.
    • No problem. You just need to buy a bunch of hard drives. If you get a hundred 300GB drives (that's 30 TB) per day at retail price [] it would only be around $10,000/day.
      • Thats because you never heard of Holographic Memory/Storage and more interesting Atomic Holographic Nanotechnology [].
        You can get from 10TB to 100TB per disk ( with a theoretical maximun of 10PT per disc ), and if they say is correct, the medium will be very cheap just like the player ( it will cost less than the currect Blu-Ray player ). They made the announcement in 2004 and said it would take from 3 to 5 years for the technology to be usable, if they're statement is cor
      • Having a bunch of bulk HD's isn't their problem, is that the data needs to be indexed and searchable. Storage isn't a problem, it is getting the data off the mountain and into a workable database that is.
    • Since this is a medium-term project i assume a new techonology like holographic memory/storage. []

      There are already companies researching and building usable products based on this techonology, like HVD _Disc [].
      As it is today one HVD can hold a maximum of 3,9TB per disc with an average transfer of 120MB/s. And this is for a removable media I bet they could use the same techonology for 'hard drive' type products.

  • Great, So they've got a 3 Gigapixel camera. Always trying to one-up me, I see.
  • by warrior_s (881715) <<kindle3> <at> <>> on Saturday May 20, 2006 @02:50PM (#15373049) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how much processing power will be needed to process such a huge amount of data inorder to extract something meaningful out of this data.
    Does Chile have some state of art suprcomputers to achieve this or are they going to send the data to some other country for analysis.
    And if they decide to transfer data to some other country how are they going to achieve that.. is data transfer on Internet feasible for 30 TB per night of data ?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:01PM (#15373079)
      Chile doesn't need to have their own supercomputers. The people funding it (RTFA) can ship them in. While Chile is one of the more prosperous South American countries, this is not Chile's project, and is probably only involved because they probably have the right site for the observatory.
    • If they can manage to get an OC-192 out there running at a full 9.6gbps, then yes, it would take about 7 hours (25,000 seconds).
      • If they can manage to get an OC-192 out there running at a full 9.6gbps, then yes, it would take about 7 hours (25,000 seconds).

        And you think an OC-192 connectors on both sides of data transfers which requires direct connection using fiber-optic cables is an easy thing to set up between say Chile and US.
        OTOH, get over OC-192... OC-768 (40 Gbps) is already there though not in use outside of some very few research facilities.
        • And you think an OC-192 connectors on both sides of data transfers which requires direct connection using fiber-optic cables is an easy thing to set up between say Chile and US.

          Compared to direct-connecting one arbitrary building in New York to another, absolutely.

    • by Pedrito (94783)
      Does Chile have some state of art suprcomputers to achieve this...

      No, they plan on using some tin cans and a string and the guys are just going to relay the 0's and 1's off to a country with actual electricity and stuff.

      Please go read a little about Chile. They don't live in the dark ages there. It's actually a pretty modern country and hosts to some of the biggest telescopes in the world. Just because they have clean air doesn't make them Neanderthals.
      • Just because they have clean air doesn't make them Neanderthals.

        I'm guessing you have never been to Santiago.

        From this site []:
        "The 5 million inhabitants of Santiago, Chile are exposed to high levels of air pollution during a significant portion of the year."

        Beautiful country though, and I'm sure there are plenty of N/A cities with worse pollution than Santiago (heck, the air in Missoula MT was pretty bad when there was an inversion []).
    • i understand (i work at the ctio observatory as a programmer and obviously everyone there is very excited by this news) that the lsst will require an impressive amount of computing power, but that it's not impractical - it would be possible today, although expensive, and the hope is that in a few years the hardware will be much more reasonably priced. since processing a lot of images is pretty easy to do in parallel it's likely that the hardware will be some kind of cluster rather than a traditional (old s
    • here's a background paper on the "data challenge" - f []
    • And if they decide to transfer data to some other country how are they going to achieve that.. is data transfer on Internet feasible for 30 TB per night of data ?

      Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of magnetic tapes hurtling down the highway.

  • by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:00PM (#15373076) Journal
    Ok, so how do i know if the submitter is native english speaker or not? According to wikipedia, billion [] - english speakers think that billion is 10^9, while non-english speakers think that it's 10^12. It is troubling me, because I wanted to quickly calculate what's the size of the pixel matrix, but I can't because of that ambiguity :(
  • Prioritize our needs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by helioquake (841463) *
    I understand this 8.4m telescope will be designed to view a wider field of view than any other 8m class telescopes (we have like five of them now). But, do we really need another large telescope that costs a few hundred millions? Or is this just another telescope engineer's way for securing a future funding resource?

    For 300 Mil, we could probably build ten kick-ass instruments to utilize the existing 6m to 8m telescopes more efficiently. That's where the technology is advancing faster, too. After all, wh
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The short answer is, yes, we do. The other 8m+ class telescopes all have tiny fields of view. They are designed to stare for a long time at a fixed point in the sky to take 'deep' exposures. The LSST is designed to do survey work to measure weak lensing of galaxies. That requires looking at a large region of sky (so you can get as many galaxies as possible), and also requires the telescope to be a big 'light bucket' so the signal to noise in the individual pixels is good enough.

      The reason they are doing
      • Basically, LSST's design is focused on trying to tackle the biggest problem in cosmology.

        That's exactly the problem with this proposal. It is designed specifically to solve one key problem in the one particular topic in the field: cosmology.

        Its purview is so narrow that the benefit of this telescope is limited to those who are involved in the cosmology or the institution like U. of Arizona. Would this do any good for those who study ISM, local stellar and nebular objects, etc? (yes to some, of course). And
        • Narrow? (Score:4, Informative)

          by jpflip (670957) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @04:27PM (#15373365)
          I'm not sure I'd call the study of the origin and structure of the entire universe "narrow", but be that as it may... The data set that will come out of this instrument (if it's ever built) will be on an entirely different scale than anything astronomers have had to deal with. There are lots of things that can be done with such an instrument - lensing surveys, redshift surveys, variable stars, supernova searches... Pretty much anything requiring a wide search where you don't know the exact locations of the interesting bits.

          The Hubble (for example) will always be better if you want to look at a specific spot very closely, but a high resolution survey of the entire Southern sky every few nights is hardly of limited interest! My only concern is that it's too much - a few days of data could keep people busy for a very long time!
        • Would this do any good for those who study ISM, local stellar and nebular objects, etc?

          Yes, yes, and yes. A survey telescope like this will benefit everyone on this planet interested in astronomy related studies.
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:46PM (#15373235) Homepage Journal
      The ability to scan the entire sky in high resolution in one go WILL be a benefit to every other telescope on earth.

      As soon as this thing detects anything strange, the other specific scopes can be aimed in that direction.

      Without this, its blind luck whether an event will be witnessed.
    • I personally do not feel that another 8m class telescope is what the community needs.
      Are you suggesting that there are ways to spend 300 millon in Chile that might somehow better serve the community? At first I thought maybe schools or infrastructure might be better places for the cash, but after reading up on Chile in the World Factbook / ci.html [] I think that some high end scientific spending is quite appropriate. Now should that money come from US taxpay
  • $270 mil seems awfully steep. I didn't think many other countries had that kind of money to throw around towards things that had little purpose other then fulfilling curiosity other then the US.....
    • by Anonymous Coward
      From TFA:
      Funding is another hurdle. The telescope will cost an estimated $300 million, but so far telescope officials have only raised $30 million from private donors. "We would like the rest of the money to come from the federal government," says Sweeney. The telescope team will soon submit proposals for funding to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. And the US Congress will need to approve the funding
    • things that had little purpose other then[SIC] fulfilling curiosity

      There's an anecdote about how someone asked Michael Faraday what use was electricity. The answer was "what use is a newborn child?". Ask anyone about the uses of electricity today.

      Among other things, this telescope will help to find an answer for one of the most important questions in physics today: how to unify the theories of quantum physics and relativity. This is one of the studies that can be helped by better knowledge of the mass dist

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:20PM (#15373142)
    This is old, old news. Many of these programs are run by has-beens who resist change and are little more than entrenched bureaucracy.

    It would be better to have multiple, interlinked reflector and/or schmidt-cassegrain telescopes ( these are catadioptric 'scopes which use both lenses and mirrors ) all digitally searching the sky together. We can now link such devices wirelessly over several kilometers or even statewide. If you use an asynchronous comm channel to query the telescopes' search telemetry and they reside on an intranet they can all track right ascension+declination at once to look for deep-sky objects or to track Mars. This way, you can aggregate data and pool this information as co-located segments when doing visual/radio sweeps.

    The best thing about this proposal is it leaves the door open for volunteers to step in and contribute something.
    • by andrew cooke (6522) <> on Saturday May 20, 2006 @05:54PM (#15373598) Homepage
      first, on the whole political thing:

      the competition in astronomy is fierce. there's a fixed amount of money and a pile of good projects. there's a big peer-review process that evaluates possible projects and gives priorities. then the nsf goes round looking for dead wood it can hack away so that there's money for the best projects. no-one is complacent - i work at ctio and everyone there was assuming that they were going to lose their jobs. and because lsst won't really kick in for a few years, we may still be laid off before then (even though we're all working like crazy on related projects). this isn't a bunch of "has beens" making life easy for themselves - it's a vicious, competitive world where only projects that really stand a good chance of changing astronomy make it.

      second, the technology choice:

      if you are talking about synthetic apertures (like radio telescopes) then no - you cannot link optical telescopes together state-wide. you can control them in parallel, sure, but you cannot combine the data in the same way as radio telescopes. it's way beyond our technical ability. so if there is no synthetic aperture, what's the advantage in spreading them around? especially when world class telescope sites with existing support are very rare. it makes most sense to put one telescope on the top of a mountain in a chilean desert.

      and don't think you can re-use any old telescope. the structural engineering of this thing is going to be brutal - to optimize throughput the slews (moving to a new position on the sky) are going to be way faster than anything currently out there. that's one reason the site decision had to be made early - they need to know what they're building this on just to control the vibration levels!

      there is a competing project, called pan-stars, which has a group of co-located telescopes. the advantage of that approach is largely political - you can build one cheaply and then look for more funding. but if you do the maths - and this is well understood engineering/optics/statistics, the answer is clear - the lsst solution comes out on top.

      oh, and it's not old news either; the press conference anouncing that this was going to chile was held in the room next to my office a few days ago.
      • Take a look at optical Interferometry []. Multiple telescopes are a lot more useful than you think.

        Pan-STARRS [] by the way, is not an optical interferometrer, but is still is actually extremely well suited to having multiple telescopes. They are trying to survey the entire sky very quickly. With multiple telescopes you can look at different parts at the same time, thereby extending your field of view.
      • Also, "if you do the maths" typically increasing the size of the telescope increases the cost exponentially, not linearly. So if you can do the same task with multiple smaller telescopes you can save quite a number of millions of dollars. I beleive that Pan-STARRS funded a design study to evaluate the benefits of a single telescope versus multiple telescopes and the multiple telescope design proved to be better suited to their goals.
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:39PM (#15373207) Homepage Journal
    I'd be willing to help process the data if they need a significant supercomputer to make the comparisons to previous nights. Or does comparing 3 Gigapixel images not really put a strain on their computers?
  • Imagine (Score:4, Funny)

    by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @03:59PM (#15373282) Homepage Journal
    Just imagine a Beowulf cluster of 1000 3-Megapixel cameras taking pictures of the sky through telescopes, and do that every 3 nights. That's how impressive this project is going to be.
  • This sounds like somebody fishing for a little goverment money. Like watching for 'near earth' satilites that can be seen if you have wide angle coverage, and good depth.
  • Copy cats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by p_trekkie (597206) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @05:18PM (#15373510) Homepage
    This is truly not innovative at all and just copying someone else's idea. PAN-STARRS [] will accomplish the same thing, already has funding, and is entering the prototype phase. Sure, 1.4 Gigapixels is not as much as 3, but it will be online sooner, accomplish the same goals on a smaller telescope, and will take a week to survey the whole sky instead of three days. So this new telescope is no big deal, especially since it will only about half of the sky visible to PAN-STARRS since this new thingy will be in the very southern hemisphere, rather than Hawaii.
    • Re:Copy cats (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pnot (96038)
      So this new telescope is no big deal, especially since it will only about half of the sky visible to PAN-STARRS since this new thingy will be in the very southern hemisphere, rather than Hawaii.

      Gosh, sounds like someone's got a case of gigapixel envy! As a matter of fact, this telescope will be at a latitude of thirty degrees south [], (cf. Hawaii's twenty degrees north []) -- hardly the "very southern hemisphere".

      Take it easy; as you point out, the Hawaii telescope will be online sooner, but the Chile one will h
      • The article states repeatedly that "This has never been done before" "totally unique" and other such crap. I find fault with the fact that the article fails to mention a blindly obviously similar telescope that is already under construction and claim uniqueness when that is not the case. One survey telescope operating in the north and one in the south would be a very decent combination, but it is foolish for the later one to not acknowledge that it's following on the shoulders of or working in conjunctio
    • But the southern sky is more interesting anyway. We have a centaur with a sword, a clock, a ship, a scorpion, ..., you only have crappy Greek heroes and bears
  • by SonicSpike (242293) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @06:31PM (#15373684) Homepage Journal
    the paparazzi will be using it to view J-Lo's ass!
  • [yes, I live in Chile] ... when it comes to astronomy (hell, science in general), our local media (TV and newspapers) does pretty slim coverage. I end up reading about these developments in foreign news sites (slashdot, BBC,, etc.) 3-6 days before than appearing here, if at all. :-(
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Saturday May 20, 2006 @09:08PM (#15374009) Homepage
    "... oh wait, those are just dead pixels. Sorry; Our bad."
  • With such a large data set - it seems to me that at least some basic analysis is well suited for a distributed BOINC project like SETI@Home.

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