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Prime real estate for astronomy November 12, 2008

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Cordon Macon, a candidate site of the E-ELT

Cordon Macon, a candidate site of the E-ELT

I recently spotted this great image on the ESO website, where it was “ESO Chile Image of the Month” a while ago.  It’s an eastward view over Cordon Macon, located in the Argentinian province of Salta and one of the candidate sites for the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT. The equipment used for monitoring of the site is just a tiny speck on the ridge, shown enlarged in the inset.

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Moore Foundation funds detector research October 28, 2008

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Artists impression of the 30-m primary mirror of the Thirthy Meter Telescope (TMT)

Artist's impression of the 30-m primary mirror of the Thirthy Meter Telescope (TMT)

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation recently awarded $2.8 million to researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology for the development of noiseless detectors in the framework of the Thirty Meter Telescope project. This is really good news for astronomers: not only is it a significant amount of money invested in a hugely important area of our science, the Foundation’s high profile helps raise awareness of the value of this work. Personally I’m happy this research is being carried out at a research institution rather than a private company, as corporate strategies are not always compatible with the “niche applications” that astronomy instruments usually are.

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Well played, Australia October 7, 2008

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Astronomy Professor Penny Sackett, former head of the Astronomy department of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, was appointed as Australia’s next Chief Scientist at the end of September. Although a theoretical physicist by education, Sackett is very well known in astronomy for her work in exoplanet detection and involvement in the US-led Giant Magellan Telescope project.

She was also in charge of rebuilding Mt Stromlo observatory, that was tragically destroyed in a bush fire in 2003.

An astronomer, and she’s a woman to boot. Score! Congratulations to her.

400 Years of Telescopes in the Media October 3, 2008

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Giant Magellan Telescope/Carnegie Observatory

Artist's rendering of the Giant Magellan Telescope. Image credit: Giant Magellan Telescope/Carnegie Observatory

Scientists generally know of only one direction: forward! But sometimes it’s good to look back and take stock of what scientists have done in the past and what it all means. This week marked the perfect opportunity for retrospection for astronomers worldwide, precisely 400 years after the invention of the telescope, right here in the Netherlands. I’ve blogged about this important anniversary before, and I  wanted to flag up some nice media coverage. The uptake hasn’t been great in the mainstream media actually – but maybe I’ve missed it. Post a comment if you find a good story!

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